Rules

LPGA star posts letter critical of her recent disqualification

June 14, 2024
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Stuart Franklin

Nearly a week after six-time LPGA winner Nasa Hataoka was disqualified from the ShopRite LPGA Classic after she signed an incorrect scorecard because she was deemed to have taken too long to search for her ball, the Japanese star posted on social media a long and critical response.

Hataoka was DQ'd for taking more than three minutes to search for her ball after her second shot on the par-5 ninth at Seaview Bay Course last Friday. After finding the ball and consulting with a rules official, Hataoka took an unplayable lie and ended up saving an apparent par for a then-six-under 65 that placed her fourth. The DQ was announced by the LPGA the following day.

In the 622-word Instagram post on Friday, Hataoka acknowledged that she would not contest the decision and apologized to fans who wanted to watch her play. However, the 25-year-old wanted to share three recommendations to ensure other players won't get DQ'd like she did.

The first was addressing ambiguity in the rules. Hataoka explained there is no clear definition under the Rule 18.2a of who determines when the three-minute clock starts for the search. Given that a violation can result in disqualification, Hataoka said she hopes there can be more clarity in these rules.

Second was the timing of violation notices and penalties. Hataoka noted that it was not a tournament official or player who reported the violation. Since the report came after she signed her scorecard, when she could no longer rectify the mistake, it was "extremely frustrating and disappointing."

Third was whether or not verification through footage should be allowed. Hataoka argued that not every player is filmed through every hole. Therefore, rules officials should not be able to use footage to enforce violations.

"If footage verification is to be used to verify a violation, all the tournament play should be filmed so that such verification method should be consistently available, and if that is not feasible, footage verification should not be used and the application of the Rules should be determined by the players, fellow competitors, and the rules officials," Hataoka argued.

Hataoka ended her post by acknowledging the dozen or so people who helped her find her ball through the fescue. "I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who tirelessly helped search for my ball," she wrote.

Hataoka's disqualification came at a crucial time in the year as she tries to represent her country for a second time at the Olympics. The ShopRite was one of three events remaining before the field becomes finalized on June 24 after next week's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Instead of a chance for Hataoka to move up the Rolex Women's World Rankings after a strong first round, she fell to 20th and out of Olympic position. Ayaka Furue (19th) passed Hataoka for the second Japanese spot. With her recent U.S. Women’s Open victory, Yuka Saso (eighth) effectively claimed the first Japanese slot. Right behind Hataoka in 21st is countrywoman Miyu Yamashita, a dominant JLPGA player who has a pair of top-20s at the LPGA's two majors this season. Hataoka is not playing in this week's Meijer LPGA Classic, but has one last chance to move up in the Women's PGA at Sahalee.