124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2


LPGA star DQ'd after taking too much time to find her ball

June 08, 2024

Nasa Hataoka of Japan plays her shot from the 14th tee during the first round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

Hunter Martin

Nasa Hataoka was disqualified on Saturday from the ShopRite LPGA Classic for taking too much time to find her ball on her last hole of the first round and signing an incorrect scorecard.

Hataoka, a six-time LPGA winner, was near the top of the leaderboard in Galloway, N.J., and thinking about an eagle when she went for the par-5 ninth green with her second shot on Friday. Her ball took a terribly unlucky kick into the high, thick fescue near the green. (It was a result that playing partner Arpichaya Yubol avoided when she decided not to go for it despite needing an eagle to shoot 59.)

As shown live on the Golf Channel telecast, more than a dozen people combed through the fescue looking for Hataoka’s ball. It wasn’t clear on the broadcast when the search began, but an approximate timing by Golf Digest put the search at more than four minutes when Hataoka was shown on the broadcast identifying her ball. The time limit is three minutes—a rule that was changed in 2019 from five minutes in an effort to speed up play. At the time, the USGA noted, “In most cases, if the ball is going to be found, it will be found within the first 3 minutes.”

Hataoka wasn't so fortunate.

Golf Channel commentators noted on the broadcast that the time spent looking should be a concern, but when the ruling was made by an on-course official and Hataoka took a drop and penalty for an unplayable lie, it did not appear that there was further discussion about the search time.

After her drop, Hataoka pitched onto the green and made her putt for what appeared to be a 5 that concluded an impressive round of 65 that put her tied for third at the time.

However, as the LPGA noted in a release on Saturday, because Hataoka took too much time to find the ball—a determination the LPGA made by watching video footage—she should have declared a lost ball—a stroke-and-distance penalty—and returned to where she originally hit her second shot. When Hataoka didn't correct her score before leaving the scoring area, that was grounds for disqualification.

Given her strong opening round in the 54-hole tournament and the chance to move up in the Race to CME Globe season-long standings, where the popular Japanese player entered in the week in 20th place,. it had to be a difficult outcome for the 25-year-old. She has six top-15 finishes this season, but not yet a win.

The full LPGA statement is here:

During the first round of the LPGA Shoprite Classic, Nasa Hataoka played her second shot on No. 9 into the long fescue surrounding the green, her last hole of the day. After reviewing video footage provided to the LPGA following the round, it was determined that the search for Nasa’s ball lasted longer than the three minutes allowed under Rule 18.2a. After three minutes of search, the ball is considered lost, and the player must proceed under stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b).

Hataoka’s ball was eventually found after the search time expired. The Rules require the player whose ball is lost to proceed under stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b). When Hataoka did not play from where she had previously played from, she played from the wrong place (Rule 14.7). Because where she played from could give the player a significant advantage compared to the stroke to be made from the right place, this is considered a serious breach of Rule 14.7 with a penalty of disqualification if not corrected in time. The player had until she left the scoring area to correct this mistake per Rule 14.7.