Ruling of the Day: Is that my ball?
While playing the 17th hole, Hideki Matsuyama hit his second shot towards one of the greenside bunkers. When he approached the bunker, he found a ball plugged in the sand but could not see any identifying marks.
Not wanting to run the risk of playing a wrong ball, Hideki called in the referee to assist with identifying the ball. Under the referee’s guidance, rather than lift the ball to identify it in the bunker, which is permissible under Rule 12-2, Matsuyama used his finger to scrape just a small amount of sand that was covering the identification mark on the ball.
If a player’s ball (lying anywhere on the course) is covered by sand, to the extent that he cannot find or identify it, he may, without penalty, touch or move the sand in order to find or identify the ball – Rule 12-1a.
The ball turned out to be Matsuyama’s ball and under Rule 12-1a, he was required to re-create the lie as nearly as possible by replacing the sand. If the ball is moved during the touching or moving of sand while searching or identifying the ball, there is no penalty and the ball must be replaced and the lie re-created.
Matsuyama therefore replaced the sand back to how it was before and played his ball. He went on to hole out for a Par 4.