Lexi Thompson reacts following her loss in playoff against So Yeon Ryu during the final round of the ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills on April 2.(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)5 CONNECT>TWEET>LINKEDIN 3 COMMENTEMAILMORE
In the sad wake of the “Lexi ruling,” golf’s governing bodies moved quickly to issue a new decision on the Rules of Golf that limits the use of video evidence to determine penalties.
Now the U.S. Golf Association and R&A must move swiftly to address viewer call-ins and penalties for signing an incorrect scorecard after a day’s play is concluded, which was a 1-2 punch to Lexi Thompson that severely hindered her chance to win her second major and gave golf another black eye.
Prompted by the uproar that ensued following the ANA Inspiration earlier this month, where Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty late in the final round for an infraction she committed in the third round, the governing bodies announced Tuesday's decisions to blunt the power of video.
Now a player can avoid a potential penalty if the violation could not be reasonably seen with the naked eye. And rules officials now can determine that if a player made a reasonable judgment in replacing their ball on a putting green or taking a drop or figuring out where a ball crossed a hazard, there will be no penalty assessed even if video evidence proves otherwise.
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The first decision would have spared Anna Nordqvist a penalty of two strokes when she inadvertently brushed a few grains of sand when hitting a bunker shot in a playoff with Brittany Lang in last year’s U.S. Women’s Open. High-definition and slow-motion video evidence revealed the infraction and Nordqvist was given a two-stroke penalty and lost the playoff to Lang.
It is unclear, however, if the new decisions would have spared Thompson in the LPGA’s first major of the season.
A TV viewer emailed the LPGA during Sunday’s final round after he or she watched a replay of the third round and noticed that Thompson may have incorrectly replaced her ball on the 17th green. After reviewing tape, tournament officials deemed that Thompson had committed a rules violation. She was docked two strokes for playing from the wrong spot and two strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Thompson, who was leading the tournament by two shots, was told of the decision walking to the 13th tee in the final round. She went from leading by two to trailing by two. She eventually lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.
“Is this a joke?” Thompson said when informed of the ruling.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. And the potential for more of the same remains despite the USGA’s and R&A’s latest action.
TV viewers or those along the gallery ropes can still be officials — an allowable part of the game that infuriates most players. So, for now, golf is still the only sport that lets this happen.
And while one can make a case that Thompson deserved the two-stroke penalty for replacing her ball incorrectly — she did break a rule — how can anyone justify penalizing her two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard the previous day? How was she to account for a penalty that no one knew about? How is this right? What is the USGA and R&A waiting for? Thompson could have committed her penalty on the first hole of the first round and still have been docked two strokes three days later. How is that acceptable?
Hopefully the USGA and R&A are still working on it. The two created a committee of members from professional tours and the PGA of America that will continue to review video issues, including call-ins.
“We recognize there is more work to be done,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “Advancements in video technology are enhancing the viewing experience, but can also significantly affect the competition. We need to balance those advances with what is fair for players when applying the rules.”
Let’s hope the two governing bodies realize it’s unfair to penalize a player a day after the fact. Let’s hope they realize this quickly.