Did you happen to see what transpired with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration golf tournament a few weeks ago?
The ANA Inspiration is the first major championship of the season for the LPGA Tour, and the tournament, unfortunately, ended in a controversial manner.
Lexi Thompson was well on her way to a major championship victory when she was informed by a rules official after the 12th hole of the final round that she had violated a rule the day before, and was being assessed a four-shot penalty.
Her two-shot lead quickly became a two-shot deficit, and she eventually went on to lose the tournament in a playoff. I don’t question the ruling, but I absolutely question the timing and the way it was handled.
During Saturday’s third round, Thompson marked her ball for a short putt on the 17th hole, and replaced the ball in a different spot before holing out her putt. This violated Rule 20-7c (playing from the wrong place), which should result in a two-shot penalty.
The problem is that this inadvertent error was not noticed until a viewer at home emailed the violation in after seeing the replay of her putt. This notification came the day after the infraction.
Her two-shot penalty became a four-shot penalty when it was then determined that she had signed her scorecard for a wrong score based on the infraction.
This may sound confusing to many of you, so I’d just like to explain the problem I have with how this was handled.
In professional golf tournaments, as with most tournaments, there is a scoring area that players proceed to immediately following their round. This is the area where players meet to exchange scorecards and sign off on their card once it is determined to be correct.
The card is then turned into the official at the table who double checks the card before deeming it officially correct. If there is an error, the official will notify the player at that moment, and the error will be handled.
The mistake made by Thompson was not noticed by her, her playing partner, nor the rules official that was following their group. Once Thompson signed her scorecard and left the scoring area, her score should have been official at that point.
Golf is a game of integrity. We learn to be honest, and to officiate ourselves.
Yes, Thompson did break a rule when she failed to replace her ball on the exact same spot from where it was lifted, and I believe her when she explains that she was unaware that she had done this.
Her putt wasn’t much more than a foot away from the hole, so she was definitely not attempting to gain an edge. Had she been notified of this infraction prior to signing her card and leaving the scoring area on Saturday, her penalty would have been two-shots, and she would still have won the golf tournament.
To allow a viewer at home to make this call midway through the final round on Sunday is ludicrous. It was not only bad for Thompson, but it was bad for the game of golf.