LPGA's Nasa Hataoka disqualified a day after video review determines 'serious breach'

Nasa Hataoka got off to a fast start Friday at the Shoprite LPGA Classic, firing a 6-under 65 that left her tied for third, two shots off the lead, and was aided by a cameraman finding her ball in some fescue on her final hole.

The next day she was disqualified.

The LPGA announced Saturday that Hataoka had exceeded the allotted time of 3 minutes that players are permitted to look for lost balls (Rule 18.2a), and subsequently, she was deemed to have played from the wrong place (Rule 14.7) because she had not proceeded under stroke and distance (Rule 18.2b).

In a statement, the LPGA said it had reviewed video footage of the situation and that Hataoka had committed “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.”

Hataoka hit her second shot on Seaview Golf Club’s par-5 ninth, her last hole of the day, right of the green and into the tall fescue. She was joined by over a dozen people, including Golf Channel on-course reporter Tom Abbott, who pointed out during the broadcast that there was “concern” about whether the search was taking longer than 3 minutes, but there also was no one timing.

The broadcast showed less than half of the total search, which ended when a cameraman found Hataoka’s ball. At that point, a rules official arrived to help Hataoka take an unplayable. Abbott then added on-air, “There doesn’t seem to be any chat about the time it took to find the ball.”

Rule 18.2a states that “a ball is lost if not found in three minutes after the player or their caddie begins to search for it.” And 18.2b adds, “If a ball is lost or out of bounds, the player must take stroke-and-distance relief by adding one penalty stroke and playing the original ball or another ball from where the previous stroke was made.”

Rule 14.7b(1) includes this: “If the player does not correct the mistake before making a stroke to begin another hole or, for the final hole of the round, before returning their scorecard, the player is disqualified.”

Jenny Shin, who leads after 36 holes at 10 under, chimed in on Twitter on Saturday evening.

“This is probably controversial,” Shin wrote. “Nasa Hataoka getting DQ’ed because someone thought it was 25 seconds over 3 mins after the scorecard was signed, should not be happening. Should someone be timing to prevent this? Maybe, however, if I heard correctly, there was a rules official who was present to help her take an unplayable and all players/caddies in the group did not mention anything to the official or even after the fact. This is probably costing her dearly for the Olympics coming up. Not ideal.”

Currently, Hataoka is ranked No. 19 in the Rolex Rankings, the second highest player from Japan and three spots ahead of the next player from Japan, No. 22 Ayaka Furue.

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