Jon Rahm has struggled through the opening stages of the BMW Championship, posting a 73 during Thursday’s first round and then starting Friday’s second round with bogeys on two of his first seven holes.
But that didn’t stop the world’s fifth-ranked player from stepping in when a PGA Tour rules official appeared ready to penalize Hideki Matsuyama after the 2021 Masters champ took a practice swing from the rough alongside a bunker on No. 7 only to see the ball roll then back in the bunker.
Matsuyama’s swing wasn’t near the ball, and he instantly looked up at his caddie in horror when he realized it had dropped in the sand. Since the ball was resting in an awkward spot just outside the bunker, the Japanese standout would have needed to swing while standing inside the bunker to have any shot at getting the ball near the flag.
Hideki Matsuyama movió su bola al practicar el swing. pic.twitter.com/Jcn0mecVa1
— Raúl Andrade B. (@r_hockey) August 19, 2022
A rules official came over and asked if the ball had moved due to Matsuyama’s swing, and Rahm stepped in to insist that was not the case.
The official also asked about the timeline of the ball’s movement — if it came directly after Matsuyama’s practice swing.
“It could have fallen at any time,” Rahm said. “He did not make it move.”
After a discussion, the rules official allowed Matsuyama to play the ball from the bunker, a much easier shot than the one he previously faced.
Matsuyama, who opened with birdies on four of the previous six holes, hit his sand wedge to inside 11 feet and made the par putt to stay 5 under for the tournament.
According to the Rules of Golf:
Rule 9: Ball Played as It Lies; Ball at Rest Lifted or Moved
Purpose of Rule: Rule 9 covers a central principle of the game: “play the ball as it lies.”
If the player’s ball comes to rest and is then moved by natural forces such as wind or water, the player normally must play it from its new spot.
If a ball at rest is lifted or moved by anyone or any outside influence before the stroke is made, the ball must be replaced on its original spot.
Players should take care when near any ball at rest, and a player who causes his or her own ball or an opponent’s ball to move will normally get a penalty (except on the putting green).
Since the swing and the ball movement happened concurrently, rules officials could still look at the video and change any ruling.