In case you’ve been living under a rock this week, Lexi Thompsen would have won the Dinah Shore (the LPGA's first Major Tournament of the year, formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship) had she not incurred a 4 stroke penalty and had victory slip between her fingers over a 3mm accident that was only noticed by one person—on television—a day later. When will the LPGA stop acting like the coverage of women’s golf is a murder mystery hotline?!
Can you imagine a world in which every NFL viewer at the Super Bowl called in to dispute his team’s unfavorable calls?! Ridiculous.
The Rules of Golf have always been about “Self-Policing” rather than the whistle-blowing technique used by most other sports. That’s part of why it’s a “Gentleman’s Game.” Rules officials are there to HELP you and GUIDE you and the rules of golf themselves protect the field like traffic lights and laws. That doesn’t mean you can’t run a red light, it just means that in the Spirit of the game, if you accidentally run a red because you thought it was yellow, you are somewhat innocent, because your intent was pure.
A "stroke" in golf is defined as “the forward movement of the club made with the INTENTION of striking at and moving the ball”…notice the word “intention” in there? Well the word “intention” appears 25 times in the Rules of Golf. What does that tell you? It tells me that the rules were written to protect the player when their intentions are pure.
In Lexi’s case, she didn’t INTEND to break a rule, she didn’t KNOW she broke a rule and she made ZERO difference in the score of her play. She did not gain serious advantage from her 3mm mishap, she did not gain ANY advantage from it. None of the players in her group noticed because the infraction was so small it was barely noticeable without slow motion close-up replay television. The reality is, no one would have noticed if she hadn’t immediately replaced her ball after marking it, but rather waited and then tapped in later, but because she was “continuously putting” (which, by the way, helps pace of play), it was noticeable. Just not noticeable to Lexi herself.
The rules serve to eliminate the gray area of golf, and have a circumstance for every situation. That’s why, in addition to the relatively smaller Rules book, there is a much larger “Decisions on the Rules of Golf Book.” Who did we protect in Lexi’s situation?
Even in Tennis and Football, if a “review on the call” is made, the penalty is inflicted IMMEDIATELY after the play, not the next day! In the middle of the round! That is simply preposterous.
And as for the penalty to be 4 strokes is even more unfitting. Viewers are not rules officials. This isn’t like witnessing a murder.
Makes me wonder…how many calls like this do they receive every day that turn out to be NOTHING? How does the LPGA even have enough time to follow up on all these when their busy RUNNING A MAJOR TOURNAMENT?!??
So please--stop it with the call-in penalties. For the sake of all of us purists out there who love the game because it is all about honesty, integrity, and fairness.
A few notable rules from the USGA Website:
"The ball must be placed on the spot from which it was lifted or moved. If the ball is placed or replaced by any other person and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke."
"A serious breach has occurred if the player has gained a significant advantage as a result of playing from a wrong place." (Note 1 to Rule 20-7c)