RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links


Watch Hideki Matsuyama rebound from double hit with chip-in eagle during first round at Bay Hill

March 07, 2024

Brennan Asplen

ORLANDO — Those sticky rules of golf can sure derail a fine round. Good thing for Hideki Matsuyama that a rule change enabled him to maintain a share of the early lead Thursday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Winner earlier this year at the Genesis Invitational, Matsuyama opened with a five-under 67 at Bay Hill Club, capped off by a chip-in eagle from 50 feet at the par-5 16th hole that gave him a tie atop the 69-man field with Justin Lower.

But it was his chip shot at the previous hole that could have been a potential problem. He double hit it.

In 2018, the USGA and R&A changed Rule 10.1a that addressed when a player’s club hits the ball more than once during a single stroke. Previously, the player would be assessed a two-stroke penalty, but that penalty was erased starting in 2019.

Matsuyama, who was dealing with a sore back throughout much of his round, missed the green to the right at the par-4 15th hole, his ball settling in the rough just beyond a bunker. His chip came out weakly, and his club caught up to the ball and made contact with it again. It ended up 10 feet from the cup. The former Masters champion saw his par attempt drift right of the hole.

He wasn’t sure initially if his scorecard was going to take a hit, too.

“It wasn't like a difficult lie or anything, just hit it in the air,” the Japanese star said through his interpreter. “I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, it hit.’ I wasn't sure if that was a penalty or not, but I asked the caddie, and he mentioned it's not a penalty, so I was able to keep my game going.”

Matsuyama canceled two bogeys with five birdies and that eagle at 16 for his best opening round in 10 starts at Bay Hill.

Ranked 20th in the world, Matsuyama, 32, is seeking to complete the invitational slam. He won the Memorial Tournament in 2014 for the first of his nine tour titles, and his final-round 62 at Riviera Country Club propelled him to a come-from-behind win at the Genesis.