For the third time in 10 months, a major championship will be best remembered for a terribly managed rules issue rather than for great golf and a worthy champion. Lexi Thompson was denied the title last night at the ANA Inspiration because someone emailed the LPGA that she thought that Lexi Thompson moved her ball illegally on the 17th hole of Saturday’s third round. Below is a clip from Golf Channel’s coverage last night:
I’ll point out that at no point did her playing partner nor the walking rules official see any issue with it (who are the primary sources for bringing up any issues). Nobody on Golf Channel’s coverage (their own rules expert as well as the broadcast team- all experts at golf) saw an issue with it at the time. None of the print journalists saw an issue nor did anyone covering the event.
No other sport entertains cranks who call in to report this kind of stuff other than golf. Tennis (golf’s closest comparable) has a fantastic replay system that takes 5-10 seconds to review. Call the ATP or the WTA about a foot-fault and you might as well yell at clouds. The professional golf tours should act similarly.
It wasn’t until someone emailed the LPGA after play had ended (the LPGA didn’t see the email until Sunday) to report the issue. This is wrong on two accounts (besides the larger issue of why professional golf should EVER give these people so much as the time of day):
1) If the viewer waited until Sunday to send the email (or after Saturday’s round), then this is a whole new level of being a shithead, because in doing so you’re setting up Lexi Thompson to fail knowing that she already signed her scorecard which brings in an additional penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard (how much money did this asshole have on someone other than Lexi Thompson because this reeks of some dickhead who had money on someone else and was scrambling trying to figure out a way to not lose? Oh, am I not being fair to this asshole? Tough. In one email he effectively changed the result of a major championship- I hope this person has nightmares about it for the rest of their life, and may the 877-KARS-4-KIDS song be stuck in your head for the next 1000 years). The word you’re looking for here in entrapment.
2) If the viewer sent the email on Saturday, why did the LPGA not immediately contact Lexi Thompson and say “please come back here NOW” and at the very least, administer the penalty BEFORE the start of Sunday’s round? Surely it would have been better to let Lexi know where she stood BEFORE teeing off on Sunday (and if you’re so damn worried about protecting the field announce it then as well). That way, everyone knows what’s going on and can plan accordingly. In this case, telling her after finishing her 12th hole of the final round is absurd. Most of the field had finished their round so this idea of protecting the field goes out the window (if you teed off thinking you were 6 or 7 shots off the lead as opposed to 2 or 3, your thinking is going to be entirely different).
So this jerk that thinks he’s a hero is anything but a hero. Either way you look at it, what this person did was patently wrong.
So how do you go forward?
1) Effective today, professional golf and any governing body has to agree that any rules issues brought up by a viewer is to be ignored. The role of protecting the field and enforcing the rules has to be the dominion of the players (as specified by the rules of golf) and the on-site rules officials. The tours should immediately enact a local rule at all tournaments that advice from an outside agency/TV viewer is not to be considered.
2) Players and on-site rules officials should be reminded that they should act immediately if they see something. I don’t have an issue with a rules official saying “let’s take a look at this on TV” if they’re not sure but the decision has to be made at that point and before the player signs their scorecard.
3) If you want TV to step in, then the professional tours should immediately set up a remote TV rules bunker/war room (MLB, NHL and the NFL have these, as does both codes of rugby). This means that every player has to be viewed on every hole (otherwise you’re not enforcing the rules evenly). If the TV war room/bunker see an issue they can contact one of the on-site rules officials and review the infraction with the player immediately.
4) You can’t have things be subject to review after the round is finished. They don’t do this after the final round, so why is it accepted after the first three rounds? If there’s any doubt from anyone, the player should be advised to not sign their scorecard until they can review it.
Three incidents in 10 months regarding rules infractions that have been badly managed is three too many. This simply cannot continue.