‘Is that a big talk?’ Explaining the Collin Morikawa rules confusion at the Masters

Collin Morikawa on Thursday on the 6th green at Augusta National.


AUGUSTA, Ga. — Collin Morikawa did not cheat. It may have looked like it, depending on what you saw. But then came Morikawa’s reaction to it all. 

To start, during Thursday’s first round of the Masters, Morikawa left his tee shot short on the 180-yard, par-3 6th at Augusta National. Then, in sequence, ahead of the 37-foot putt: He marked his ball. He placed it back down. He stood over it. The ball moved slightly to the left. Here, things began to look a little funny. 

Morikawa backed away. It appeared he said something to playing partner Matt Fitzpatrick. (The other golfer in the group, Will Zalatoris, withdrew before the round). Morikawa placed a mark down. He moved the ball about an inch to the right. He put the marker behind the ball here. He lifted the ball up. He looked up. He placed the ball back down. He picked up the coin. He putted. 


He moved the ball an inch to the right?

Online, there was some confusion. Multiple tweets captured a clip of Morikawa moving the ball to the right — and only Morikawa moving the ball to the right. 

On the ESPN broadcast, there also was uncertainty.

“Do you see what I saw there with the mark?” one announcer said.

“I’m not sure what I really saw,” another said. 

In short, Morikawa played it by the book. Since he had marked his ball after his tee shot, placed it back down and then the ball moved, he needed to place the ball in its original spot, which he did. Rule 13.1d (2) covers it, saying:

“If natural forces cause a player’s ball on the putting green to move, where the player must play from next depends on whether the ball had already been lifted and replaced on its original spot: Ball Already Lifted and Replaced. The ball must be replaced on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated), even though it was moved by natural forces and not by the player, the opponent or an outside influence. Ball Not Already Lifted and Replaced. The ball must be played from its new spot.”

From there, Morikawa two-putted for a par and finished with a three-under 69, which is four shots back of leaders Viktor Hovland, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka. 

Back to the confusion. 

Morikawa was confused himself when asked about it all afterward. The mood, though, was good. 

The following player-reporter exchange included the tweet of the shortened video; the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Program, which awards money partially on player popularity; and a mild freakout. 

“Did anyone, before you signed your scorecard, bring up the marking on 6 just to ask you what happened there?” 

“No. Is that a big talk?” Morikawa asked. 

“It’s blowing up on social media.”

“They cut the video from when you were crouched down moving it. Instead of showing you addressing it and the ball rolling back.”

“So they what?” Morikawa said. “Good. Bring that PIP up. Blow me up, guys. What happened? Just so I know.”

“It’s on Twitter. It’s someone taking like a video of the TV, and they start the video when you’re already crouched down with the marker behind and moving the ball.”

“With the marker like this far behind,” Morikawa said. “Because I threw it down because I was going to throw the marker back. I’m not fine. There’s no rules official. You guys are freaking me out here. I’m going to get hunted down.”

“You’re good.”

“Good,” Morikawa said. “PIP’s going up.”

And then he walked away.

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.