Matthew Wolff thought he was playing by the Rules — then came a replay

Matthew Wolff

Matthew Wolff hits his tee shot on Thursday on the 8th hole on the Stadium Course at PGA West.

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Matthew Wolff, during Thursday’s first round of the American Express, stood over his second shot on the 1st hole on the Stadium Course at PGA West. He waggled his iron a few times, lowered it behind his ball, then took the club back. As Wolff did, his ball moved maybe an inch to the right.

“OK,” the announcer on PGA Tour Live initially said. 

Upon further review, not OK. 

As first reported by Golfweek’s Adam Schupak, Wolff was penalized a stroke after the Tour reviewed previously unavailable video on Friday. Rules officials determined that Wolff violated Rule 9.4, which states: “If the player lifts or deliberately touches his or her ball at rest or causes it to move, the player gets one penalty stroke.” 

On Thursday, Wolff talked with rules officials and believed he did not cause the ball to move, which is an application of Rule 9.2 (and first pointed out on Thursday by Matthew Wiley of the Golflandia podcast). That Rule states: “The player, the opponent or an outside influence is treated as having caused the ball to move only if it is known or virtually certain to be the cause. If it is not known or virtually certain that at least one of these was the cause, the ball is treated as having been moved by natural forces.”

Wolff’s 71 became a 72. He was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard thanks to an application of Rule 3.3, which was added in 2016. That rule states: “If one or more of the player’s hole scores are lower than the actual scores because he or she excluded one or more penalty strokes that the player did not know about before returning the scorecard, the player is not disqualified. Instead, if the mistake is found before the close of the competition, the Committee will revise the player’s score for that hole or holes by adding the penalty stroke(s) that should have been included in the score for that hole or holes under the Rules.”

“The incident was filmed on PGA Tour Live and was not brought to our attention until Matthew was well into his second round today,” PGA Tour Tournament Director Steve Rintoul told Golfweek. “Once we realized there was video evidence, we had to look at it. Matthew was extremely professional and initially thought he was in a disqualification situation. But, fortunately for him, it was not.

“He was acting under the jurisdiction of an official yesterday and understood how the penalty applies when a ball is moved by the player. Matthew said he didn’t feel like he caused the ball to move, but certainly understood that he could have. He was extremely professional about the entire situation.”

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor