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Saturday
Dec022017

Intent Files: Matsuyama's Divot Fix Not Sitting Well

I've heard from many who are still very annoyed that 2017 Hero World Challenge participant Hideki Matsuyama escaped penalty for repairing a divot as chunked chip rolled back toward the dreaded crater.

Because we've introduced intent into the rules--something the experts warned would create problems in situations like this--Matsuyama was able to say he did not intend to improve his forthcoming lie. It's a similar slippery slope golf has encountered with the backstopping movement where players say they are just intending to speed up play.

A few years ago this was a penalty and we had several instances in tournament golf where a player mistakenly improved the ground without intent (and typically out of frustration). But they still were penalized.

Matsuyama has gotten away with one here:

 

we would’ve stomped that chili 🌶 as well @tgrliveevents #hidekimatsuyama ✊🏽 #golfrules #golfisfun

A post shared by golf humbles everyone (@varygolf) on Dec 1, 2017 at 3:01pm PST

 

But as Missy Jones noted in answering a reader, we have to assume honesty.

 

 

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Reader Comments (48)

The ball never got back to that spot anyways . Made no difference in the lie
12.2.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrandel Chamblee
Doesn't matter if the ball didn't get back to the spot. It could have, and if he was so concerned about "caring for the course" he could have/should have waited until the ball stopped – and after he made his next stroke – to tap down the divot. He should have been penalized.
12.2.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Here's a 2 stroke penalty I got in Australia years ago.
Two of us missed a green down a bank and there was a gallery rope in our way. We took it out and laid it on the ground - a yard at least behind our balls.
I ran my chip up the bank and it didn't make it and came back.
My playing partner did the same and as his ball is rolling back I stuck my wedge under the rope to lift it in case the ball hit it.
The ball stopped 3 feet short of the rope.
2 shot penaltyfor me.

Using that principle this would clearly be a penalty.

Back then Brandel's argument about the action not affecting the ball made zero difference.
12.2.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike Clayton
Seems absurd to think they are asking players if they intended to break the rules. God bless the poor sap that says yes.
12.2.2017 | Unregistered CommenterShawn
As I've said several times on here-when you change a Rule it can create as many problems as it solves. Sadly, since the advent of social media, the "its so unfair" brigade are gaining too much credence. We see it on here.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
If that aint deliberate then I dont know what is...
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterIrish Golf Nut
Why intent is included in the application of the rule addressing this issue escapes me.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
+1 chico, unintended consequences
+2 shawn who is ever going to say, "yes I was trying to cheat on that one"
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterConvert
The real "intent" was to afford the opportunity to absolve the player (aka product) from being guilty. When image is tied to profitability, the application of intent will never have to pass through the eye of a rules needle.
A joke. A pro doesn't know a rule that most 10 year olds have down pat so the solution is to change the rule for the pro. Rahm got away with not removing his ball mark properly and was shown laughing his way down the fairway. Intent is to win at any cost.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGG
Looked "intentional" to me, too.

I'm gonna try this with the Georgia State Patrol: No, officer, I did NOT intend to be traveling a 82 mph in a 65 zone. Will you call Mark Russell in for a ruling? Please.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
Had no effect on anything, as the ball never came close to the divot. At least the rules officials were smart enough to avoid another stupid ruling that makes golf look bad. Had the ball hit the divot, it would be another story. Pedantic rules cuckoos will obviously have a field day arguing otherwise.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
Sad to see how many Tour players do push the limit on rules and have essentially cheated, quite a few recently.

That folks think it's not a penalty because it didn't come back into the pitch mark - for real...
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPaul
It’s a silly tournament with no cut and limited field. I wonder what the decision would have been had this taken place in a US Open
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterPC
Missy's tweets on the rules are always informative. A fun and interesting topic.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Golf used to be different from other sports because it held its players to a higher standard, and asked that they police themselves. Sadly, this is no longer the case. Any rule that is deemed unfair is changed, rather than the player learning the hard way. Guess what, life isn't fair. Neither is golf. Ask Tommy Fleetwood if the lie he got yesterday was fair.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBDF
I wonder if his interpreter knows how to answer the rules questions in a way that helps him avoid any penalties.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered Commentermark
"As I've said several times on here-when you change a Rule it can create as many problems as it solves. Sadly, since the advent of social media, the "its so unfair" brigade are gaining too much credence. We see it on here."

On the money Chico, as usual. Has anyone reached out to Lexi or JT for a comment yet?
12.3.2017 | Unregistered Commenterol Harv
Watching how he hastened to repair the divot as soon as he realized the ball was coming back, there just is no way to believe that he was not in violation of the rules. I am sure he did not realize that was the case when he did it, but that is not the same as no intent. No intent would be if he started walking to his bag and stepped the divot back into place inadvertantly
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Will it be Alabama or Ohio State for CFP?
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFC
Rules officials got that call wrong... again.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZokol
@ Zokol- you may not like or agree with a ruling. Doesn't mean it is wrong though.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered Commenterchico
He intended to repair the divot while it was reasonable that the ball would wind up right there again.

Should have been 2+2.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Note that the 2019 proposed rules remove "intent" and add in "deliberate." Hideki deliberately stepped on the divot hole.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
@chico
I also believe Matsuyama was dishonest per his intent, and it’s a disturbing thing to see in a player we know so little about.
Officials are not 100 percent obliged to take his stated intent as truth. My first question would have been, “What were you trying to do?” I don’t believe they asked him that at all. Certainly the officials didn’t provide insight into the discussion with him. If they had asked Maruyama that question, there is no answer that absolves him, IMO. By all indication they only asked him if he was trying to improve. Turned it into a yes/no question. That’s poor officiating. They trapped themselves into having to let him slide..

Zokol is right, if not for the ruling, then for the way they investigated and arrived at their decision. Not saying it was easy for them—language barrier probably an issue. Also believe that human nature is to be a little more permissive in an exhibition like this. But there is no way he would have escaped were it an Open or U.S. Open.

I have no knowledge of what they said to him. But the end result was unsatisying.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHangdog
I have to say normally I think the rules puritans get a little insufferable, but I have to agree that this infraction is terrible. It also brings up a separate issue around the younger tour players not "getting it." Rahm, JT, et al seem to be in their own little world and do not seem to care about anything other than the next paycheck and winning a trophy. It is palpable at the tournaments, and tragic when you think their forefathers could not even afford a headstone for their grave, and now they make more in a logo on their shirt than pros made in an entire career.

I do not see pro golf ending well, and that is a shame.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJR
Oh the humanity........this is Pearl Harbor all over again......if this was Rory, it would be a comical rules infraction. Because it is Matsuyama, it is indicative of some moral failure.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDave
There is a rebuttable presumption of honesty. In this case, if I were a rules official, I would have asked him why he took such a big sudden step into his divot Which just happened to be directly in line where his ball was rolling.

What possible answer is there other than that he was trying to prevent his ball from rolling into a divot.
12.3.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDukeman
If this was a jury trial the verdict would have been swiftly rendered -guilty. The Oh S@@@ on his face was plain as day.
12.4.2017 | Unregistered CommenterTaffy
Doesn't this thread indicate that the introduction of intent creates more bad feeling and potential problems?

My own view is that there is a long and healthy tradition of players like Mike (above) accepting the occasional penalty incurred despite no advantage being either sought or gained. We accept that it's a breach of rules to do something that might improve our position or score. This means nobody does anything that might be cheating, but nobody has to call another player a cheat, or assess the mind of another.

In this context, Hideki would look great if he said "I just started to repair my divot because I was annoyed at the shot I played, but of course, as I immediately realised, that's a breach of rules because my ball COULD have ended up there and I COULD have thereby gained an advantage. My bad."

KLG nails the matter of intent. (On similar lines I have once or twice missed short putts without intending to do so, but have never found an opponent ready to say that they should count as holed anyway).

And I don't think the "it made not difference" thing really flies: cheating unsuccessfully or unnecessarily is still cheating.

And to say that someone breached the rules accidentally or in thoughtless impulse is not nearly as damaging as saying that they consciously :"cheated".

I don't believe things like this have a negative impaction widening participation. And ultimately the strict enforcement of rules is more egalitarian: if rules officials are judging intent, then of course the system will trend to favour those already in favour (or power).
12.4.2017 | Unregistered CommenterSmith
This looks like a rules violation to me as well. On several rules controversies this year I have defended the players. Especially regarding ball movement on goofy greens or gale force winds.

By the way, I watched the end of the Australian PGA on replay and noticed two times where players in the rough stepped in the line directly behind their ball maybe less than 2 ft from the ball. Was it coincidence, testing the condition, or trying to clear a backswing path?
12.4.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt H.
@Chico,
In 2011 Camilo Villegas breach Rule 23-1 in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, which states, “When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.”

Same situation as Matsuyama.
12.4.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZokol
"Intent" was added to 1-2 in 2012, Zokol.
12.4.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
"If the divot don't fit, we must Acquit"

The People vs Matsuyama
Rule 1-2 has included intent for a long time ('... to influence...' = the requirement that there be intent in order for there to be a breach).
12.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson
Carl, the word "Intent" was added (along with some others) in 2012, hence my putting it in quotes.

2011: A player or caddie must not take any action to influence the position or the movement of a ball except in accordance with the Rules.

2012: A player must not (i) take an action with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play or (ii) alter physical conditions with the intent of affecting the playing of a hole.

The "influence" bit is still there, so they added "intent" and it gave Mark Russell just enough wiggle room to let Hideki out of the penalty. Unfortunately. I was taught at my rules workshops that he clearly intended to step on the divot, and that's where the intent bit came into play, and they would have been correct in over-ruling him. You don't have to assume player honesty - Michelle Wie "catching her balance" in the water hazard a long time ago is a good example of that.

2019: While any player’s ball is in motion after a stroke, a player must not deliberately do any of these things to affect where that ball might come to rest

I like that they changed it (or proposed changing it) to "deliberate." Hideki's actions were deliberate.
12.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
I'm glad that the wording change helped you to understand a concept that has existed for a long time.
12.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson
That's not what I said, Carl. The wording change mattered. Claim all you want otherwise, but it's been a topic in each of the workshops I've attended.

The 2019 rule is cleaner than even the 2011 version.
12.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski
Improving your ability to understand the rule is proof that the change mattered.
12.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarl Peterson
Carl, it changed the rule itself.

Behave like an ass all you want; doesn't affect my life, man. Cheers.
12.5.2017 | Unregistered CommenterErik J. Barzeski

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