After a rules misunderstanding, World No. 3 golfer is hit with 7 penalty strokes

Lydia Ko of New Zealand lines up her putt on the 18th green during Day Three of the Dana Open at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio USA, on Saturday, July 15, 2023.

Lydia Ko tumbled down the leaderboard after getting seven penalty strokes.

Getty Images

A strange year for Lydia Ko has gotten even stranger.

On the 11th hole during the final round of the Dana Open Sunday, Ko marked her ball as if she was going to clean and replace it, thinking preferred lies were in play for the final round.

Just one problem. Preferred lies were in play during the fourth round, but just not on the 11th hole. Or most of the holes at Highland Meadows Golf Club, in fact. Even worse for Ko, this wasn’t the first time she had made the mistake either.

Let’s go back a bit.

With the forecast calling for heavy rain Saturday — that would eventually suspend play for nearly four hours — LPGA officials made the decision to play preferred lies for the entirety of the third round.

Then for the final round, preferred lies were only in effect on Nos. 1 and 10, according to an LPGA spokesperson.

Ko was unaware of this and played preferred lies on the 3rd, 7th and 9th fairways, going par-par-bogey on the three holes as part of a birdie-less opening nine of two-over 36.

It wasn’t till the 11th when a rules official was notified Ko had been playing preferred lies when she called for the ruling only after marking her ball. She ended up getting two-stroke penalties for each of the first three times she played preferred lies on the front nine and then got a seventh penalty stroke on 11.

According to the spokesperson, since Ko did not replace her ball to its original position on the front nine, she was penalized for playing a ball from the wrong spot each time under rule 14.7a. However, on the 11th, she was alerted to the infraction before placing her ball again. She replaced it to its original position, meaning she only got only a one-stroke penalty for deliberately touching and moving her ball under rule 9.4b.

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Her pars on 3 and 7 became doubles while a bogey on nine turned into a nasty triple. Ko all of a sudden went from four under for the tournament to two over. She managed to make par on the 11th and birdied the 17th to shoot a 78, finishing T65. She dropped 41 spots from where she had started the day.

It’s the second such example of rules confusion leading to a penalty on the LPGA Tour in as many weeks, albeit not as severe. Natthakritta Vongtaveelap was disqualified during the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open after her caddie mistakenly used a range finder. Range finders are typically allowed on the LPGA, but not at the U.S. Women’s Open or AIG Women’s Open.

The bizarre penalty continues a down year for Ko who returned to form in 2022, winning three times and reclaiming World No. 1. Despite a win on the Ladies European Tour in January, she has only finished better than T31 one time, coming in her first start in February when she finished T6.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at



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