I could not be happier with the recent decision made by the United States Golf Association and The R&A regarding television viewers being allowed to phone in rules infractions. This practice will no longer be allowed, and I am surprised that it took this long to come to that conclusion.
Earlier in the year, I wrote a piece about a rules infraction that was called on Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration Championship. At that time, Thompson had a three-shot lead during the final round of the tournament.
A television viewer somehow was able to report a violation that occurred in the third round by Thompson. Apparently, she had improperly replaced her golf ball on the putting green to a spot a fraction off from where it should have been placed.
She was assessed a two-stroke penalty for this infraction, and an additional two-stroke penalty for signing for an incorrect score at the conclusion of the round. Remember, this all took place the next day. Low and behold, Thompson would go on to lose that championship in a playoff.
The topic of rules infractions called in from television viewers immediately became a hot topic after that tournament. But it shouldn’t have taken so long.
Thompson’s incident was just one of many over the years that have created plenty of drama. The other one that comes to mind was that of Tiger Woods during the 2013 Masters. Tiger took an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of that tournament.
This drop was not noticed by his playing partner, nor the rules official that was assigned to his group. However, a viewer at home noticed this and Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty.
For all of you that play golf, you understand that golf is the most honorable game in the world. From the moment we first pick up a club, we are taught to monitor the rules ourselves. It’s one of the many great lessons that we learn from this remarkable game.
For those fortunate enough to become good enough to compete at higher levels of competition, there are often rules officials located throughout the golf course to assist with any questions that come up. This generally happens only if players within the respective group are unable to determine the proper ruling on a rules question.
Players that eventually turn professional are then assigned a rules official within their group to assist with questions as they arise.
This should be enough.
And finally, because of this decision, it will be.
It’s a shame that Thompson’s infraction many months ago was, ultimately, the determining factor in changing the policy of allowing television viewers to phone in rules infractions. It should never have been allowed, and I hope it never will be again.