Collin Morikawa clears Matt Fitzpatrick over role in two-shot penalty in Bahamas
Playing together in the third circuit in the $4.5 million event on Saturday at Albany, Fitzpatrick overhead Morikawa asking his caddie, Jonathan Jakovac, about something that sparked his interest rather than thinking he should be reporting him for a rules breach.
Fitzpatrick, in fact, had totally forgotten about it until late on Saturday night and it was only then that he contacted the PGA Tour, leading to 2021 Open champion Morikawa being hit with his penalty due to Jakovac breaking Model Local Rule G-11 on green reading material.
Recalling what had happened on the fourth green as Jakovac shared information with Morikawa that he’d written in his yardage book after using a spirit level to work out a formula on the practice putting green earlier in the week, Fitzpatrick said: “I heard Collin ask the question. JJ gave him an answer from his yardage book.
“I have wanted to use AimPoint earlier this year. I spoke to my putting coach, Phil Kenyon, about it. He told me that he was pretty certain I can't write the numbers down or use the AimPoint numbers. So I didn't do it. And then obviously yesterday it happened and I asked Coxy [PGA Tour chief referee Stephen Cox] just to clarify what the situation was.
“That was it. Listen, it's nothing personal. Whether it was Tiger or whoever, it's just I wanted to know because I would have used it earlier this year.”
The 2022 US Open champion was asked why he hadn’t raised the matter straight after the round. “I completely forgot about it as soon as we came in and it wasn't until I was back in the house like where I was staying and someone was talking about putting. I was like, ‘oh, s***, like I have that question. I texted Coxy.”
The penalty effectively killed off Morikawa’s hopes of catching overnight leader and eventual winner Scottie Scheffler, but he insisted: “Matt did what any competitor should do. It’s on me. I take full blame for it.”
Speaking to reporters, Cox said: “Unfortunately for JJ and Collin, the caddie in question used a device - a level - on the practice putting green, which in itself is not a breach of the rules. But, unfortunately, what he did was develop that chart/formula as a hand-written note and transferred that into his yardage book and that’s where the breach occurred, particularly on hole No 4.
“It comes down to use of this hand-written note and because he used it for assessing a putt during the third round, he was assessed a two-shot penalty. Fortunately, that is the only time that the player or caddie has accessed or used that information off that chart/formula and, on that basis, the breach remained at two strokes.”
According to Cox, this isn’t the first time that Model Local Rule G-11 has been breached on the PGA Tour since it was introduced in 2022. “It’s a very complicated rule and when we implemented it in 2022, there was a huge amount of information and conversations that we as a rules committee had with both players and caddies. Unfortunately in this case, JJ has fallen foul of what is quite a complex rule.”
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