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Nick Hardy reacts to Kamaiu Johnson scorecard DQ: ‘It looks like there may have been a cheating situation’

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Did Kamaiu Johnson commit one of the unforgivable sins in golf and deliberately sign for a lower score than he made on a hole? It depends on who you ask.

Johnson, 29, violated Rule 3.3b for signing an incorrect scorecard after the second round of the 2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational, and was disqualified. Johnson, a multiple-time winner on the APGA Tour, was playing on a sponsor exemption. He would have missed the cut anyway, but that is beside the point to Nick Hardy, who was in the group with Johnson along with Kyle Westmoreland, who kept his scorecard.

In Johnson’s account of things, he made a double-bogey six at the par-4 ninth hole, not a seven, en route to shooting 5-over 77 on Friday at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, missing the cut by six strokes. ShotLink data shows Johnson had a 22½ par putt from the fringe and took four putts, missing putts of three and four feet for bogey and double bogey before tapping in a 20-inch putt for his 7.

“The amount of chances that he had to say he made a six is unfortunate because it looks like there may have been a cheating situation,” Hardy told Golfweek on Wednesday, ahead of his debut in the Players Championship. “I know that especially when I’m in a tournament atmosphere, that whenever I’m playing golf there is never a time where I forget what I shot.”

Westmoreland told Golfweek on Sunday that he didn’t see Johnson finish the hole because the group had been put on the clock.

“We were on the clock, so I walked off,” Westmoreland said after his third round on Saturday. “I assumed he made the one after he missed.”

Hardy echoed that sentiment.

“We were warned (for slow play) the day before and warned when we came off the tee box on nine (Friday). It was very fresh,” Hardy said. “When you get a warning, you get penalized as a member but there’s no penalty for non-members for pace of play. I have an issue when I get penalized for pace of play and I believe it isn’t me. I’ve been paired with non-members the last three weeks and I’ve gotten five or six warnings. When you get 25 warnings, you get fined $50,000. That’s a lot of money for anybody.”

In short, Hardy, who wasn’t keeping Johnson’s score, had a legitimate reason for walking ahead before Johnson finished in an effort to catch up.

“I’m going to get penalized even though I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” Hardy said. “If we hadn’t been warned, I wouldn’t have walked off the green and the situation would have been different and Kamaiu might have known I’d seen it. There was good reason for me not to be there.”

After the round, the group’s walking scorer confirmed that Johnson made a triple-bogey 7. A ShotLink official used video taken at the hole that showed the four putts, including the first from the fringe.

“I’ll say this, they gave him many opportunities after the round, even after he signed his card, a couple more opportunities to maybe say he made a 7. I think they knew they had video evidence from the running camera on 9. ShotLink said he had a 7, the walking scorer said he had a 7 and he insisted he had a 6. They hinted to him that, hey, we just want to make sure you’ve got this right, and he still said he made a 6. That was the troubling issue I had,” Hardy said. “The Tour gave him multiple chances to come to grips with it. I know this for a fact because I was getting calls from the scoring officials for the next hour after we signed the card inside. I saw Montana [Thompson] and Casey Jones outside the locker room when they were talking to Kamaiu. It’s definitely concerning.”

“It happens, I guess,” Westmoreland told Golfweek. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. He missed the cut. It doesn’t look great, I guess, for some people, but I don’t have much to comment on. It was a non-factor. I think the Tour handled it well.”

But Hardy disagreed with Westmoreland’s assessment that “it doesn’t matter; he missed the cut.”

“That’s unfair because when he played that hole he was right on the cut line. If he had gotten away with a 6, he only needed to shoot 2 under. It mattered, it mattered big time,” Hardy said. “I think you should be responsible. For people who think a player should get away with making a mistake like that because of a caddie’s fault or because the walking scorer should be in charge is wrong. The player should be 100 percent in charge of their score. The game is amazing because it taught me so many things about life. It’s like a true meritocracy in the sense that in life you need to be honest, you need to take responsibility, take ownership, have integrity for others; that’s the name of the game and to violate that is very concerning.”

On Saturday, Johnson took to social media to issue an apology, tweeting, “I take the integrity of the game very seriously and I’m sorry this happened. I got a little overwhelmed in the moment with the group on the clock and lost count of my missed putts from 3 feet. I’ll do better.”

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