Hideki Matsuyama’s ball moves: not punished


Footage showing Hideki Matsuyama’s clubhead hitting the ball behind the green on hole 17 at Riviera Country Club during the Genesis Invitational has left viewers astonished.

Social media was flooded with messages demanding explanations from the referees. Why was the Japanese, who won the tournament by three strokes on Sunday, not punished?

The officials’ explanation is summed up in a few words in the fundamental rule of golf: rule number 9, “Play the ball as it lies”.

Hideki Matsuyama, results

According to paragraph 2 of this rule, it is necessary to determine whether a ball moved before or during the stroke. A ball is considered to have moved only if it is certain or almost certain that it has done so. If the movement of the ball is uncertain, it is considered not to have moved and must be played as it lies.

In addition to the criterion of certainty of movement, referee Mark Dusbabek, who reviewed the images, explained that the ball had oscillated but had not actually changed position.

Commentator Jim Nantz even criticized internet users who protested the alleged infraction, urging them to find other targets for their criticism. After recent controversies surrounding the rules of golf on the PGA Tour, such as the penalties given to Rory McIlroy and the disqualification of Jordan Spieth, this time around, everything seems to be in order for Hideki Matsuyama.

The Rules of Golf are a set of standard rules and procedures that govern the practice of the sport. They are jointly managed by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the governing body of golf worldwide, except in the United States and Mexico, which are the responsibility of the United States Golf Association (USGA). An expert commission made up of members of the R&A and USGA oversees and refines the rules every four years. The latest revision came into force on 1 January 2016.

Changes to the rules of golf are generally divided into two main categories: those that improve understanding of the rules and those that, in certain cases, reduce penalties to ensure greater balance.

The rule book, titled “Rules of Golf,” is published regularly and also includes rules governing amateur status. In Italy, it is up to Federgolf to monitor the competitions and enforce the rules issued by the R&A, checking that they are observed by the clubs, associations and their members. Furthermore, Federgolf manages sporting justice resulting from violations of the rules, protecting the interests of affiliates even abroad.

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