There is no doubt that Thompson marked her ball and then improperly replaced it and should have been penalized for breaking rule Rule 20-7c, which states:
If a competitor makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes under the applicable Rule. He must play out the hole with the ball played from the wrong place, without correcting his error, provided he has not committed a serious breach (see Note 1).
In Lexi’s case the rule is dumb because it gave her no competitive advantage, but that’s not the point, she broke the rule and should have been penalized. What should be called into question is that the rules official with her group, her playing partner, both caddies, and the tournament officials on site did not say anything at the time. Those same officials didn’t say anything prior to Thompson signing her scorecard either, and they more than likely would have never said anything had a random viewer not emailed a day later bringing it to their attention.
What would have happened had the viewer emailed a day after Thompson won the tournament? Would the LPGA have decided to go back and change the outcome?
I have three things to say about this:
- Thompson should have been penalized two strokes for playing from an incorrect spot. There is no question about that.
- Because no rules officials on site saw the infraction during the third round and Thompson wasn’t alerted during that round, she should not be penalized for signing an incorrect scorecard because had she been alerted during the round or prior to signing, she would have assessed herself a two-stroke penalty and signed the correct scorecard.
- It is ridiculous that some guy sitting on his couch can change the outcome of a major championship with a phone call or an email when there are paid officials on site.
Viewers are not referees despite what many of them may believe, otherwise Calvin Johnson would have made that famous catch that was ruled not to be a catch. On top of that, how many shots are taken during a round that are not shown? Had Thompson’s putt not been shown, no one would have said a word because no one at home would have seen it. This unfairly skews the officiating in a negative way for players who are shown on television more than those who are not.
Golf is played using an honor system, and while many may compare this infraction to the one that Dustin Johnson received during the 2016 U.S. Open, they are not quite the same. Johnson’s ball moved on its own. He believed that, his playing partner Lee Westwood believed that, and the rules official walking with Johnson’s group believed that, yet all three of those voices were overruled by the USGA. If golf is a game played using an honor system, those three voices should have been believed. Lee Westwood had nothing to gain by saying Johnson didn’t cause his ball to move, and yet he said just that. Of course, thanks to high definition TV, the USGA overruled all three who were standing right there and assessed Johnson a penalty later during that round, and to be honest, I don’t have a big problem with that either because at least they did so that same day.
What I do have a problem with is penalizing a player a day later during a round thanks to a viewer tip for something that happened during a prior round. That needs to go away. In no other sport can the viewer help decide the outcome of a ruling, and yet in golf, they can.
To make things worse, Dan Maselli, LPGA Manager of Rules and Competition, asked for viewers to continue to help do this.
JUDY RANKIN: “You almost always mark the ball from behind the ball. She was standing to the side of the ball. As she said, and as I know, and surely, everyone out there should know, it was with no intent. I’m just I’m very frustrated but all of the so long after the fact things that are affecting our game.”
DAN MASELLI: “I couldn’t agree with you more, Judy. It’s one of the unfortunate things about professional golf and live television is people do see things and I wish they would speak up more quickly because then the additional two-stroke penalty she wouldn’t have incurred that if she could have gotten this out during her round yesterday.”
Instead, how about the rules officials that you pay to be there do their jobs, and if they miss something like this assess only that penalty, because had Thompson known about the infraction during or after the third round, she would not have received a second two-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect card.
Let the officials on site do their jobs and leave it at that.