The propensity for the Hero World Challenge to produce controversial moments has been highlighted once more, after the two-times major champion Collin Morikawa was handed a penalty immediately before his final round in the Bahamas.
Morikawa’s caddie, Jonathan Jakovac, was found to have used numbers he had written in a greens book to offer advice as a putt was being lined up on the 4th hole of round three. Jakovac had deployed a spirit level on the practice putting green to deduce numbers; that in itself is not banned but writing them in a book is. Morikawa’s playing partner, Matt Fitzpatrick, overheard the discussion between player and caddie and later asked the PGA Tour’s chief referee, Stephen Cox, whether this was permitted. Morikawa was informed of the sanction during his warm-up for the closing round.
Cox said: “I met with the caddie to explore whether there was any breach and, after reviewing the documentation within the yardage book and the formulation of a putting system/chart, which in itself is not necessarily a breach of the rules, the manner in which you obtain that information and develop that chart is super-key. That’s why this rule is very complex in nature.”
Morikawa, 26, insisted he had no issue with Fitzpatrick but seemed unclear about the precise nature of the rule and unhappy about the way the matter was handled. “We made the mistake,” the Californian said. “From our understanding it was fine to use a level on the practice green and see how putts break and write that down. Obviously it’s not.
“Stephen said apparently to JJ this morning that it was a grey area in all this. Why are there grey areas? There shouldn’t be grey areas in the rules, right? That’s what rules are for.
“I was a little mad at Stephen. He told us to meet him in the locker room. I was waiting in there for around five minutes and he didn’t show up and this was midway through my warm-up. If you are going to tell me some news, I think you should show up on time.”
Fitzpatrick had forgotten about what he overheard until the subject of putting came up during a discussion on Saturday evening. “I wanted to use AimPoint [a putting statistics technique] earlier this year,” he said. “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.
“Then obviously yesterday it happened and I asked Coxy just to clarify what the situation was. I asked the question and he was like: ‘Well, now you’ve asked the question, I need you to tell me what’s going on.’ That was it.
“It’s nothing personal. Whether it was Tiger Woods or whoever, it’s just I wanted to know because I would have used it earlier this year.”
In a previous Hero World Challenge, Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth were penalised for playing from an incorrect tee box. Patrick Reed had a two-shot penalty for clipping sand in a waste area during practice swings here in 2019.
While Morikawa finished seventh on 12 under, Scottie Scheffler closed out his 2023 with victory at Albany. The world No 1 took the trophy by three shots, from Austria’s Sepp Straka, at 20 under par. The returning Woods signed off with a 72 for an encouraging even-par, 72-hole aggregate.