Hello Golf Friends:
This past weekend at the ANA Championship on the LPGA we saw a very interesting and in my opinion, dumbfounding, course of events involving Lexi Thompson and rule 20-7 ( that a ball is marked and then replaced in its original position prior to your next stroke). Most of you have probably seen or read how the events unfolded in that final round….. viewer email ex post facto; penalty assessed; great comeback from adversity; playoff; loss for Lexi.
SPORTS DO NOT BUILD CHARACTER. THEY REVEAL IT! – John Wooden
Golf is a very unique game in that the players are required to police themselves; to administer rules violations on themselves; to alert their opponents of possible infractions incurred. We carry our own USGA Rule Book. The honor and spirit of the game implore us to follow the rules to the best of our ability and when in doubt as to procedure (in major amateur and professional events) consult one of the rules officials to clarify the rule for us. Calling an infraction or penalty on our self is at the very heart of the game. The rules of golf are not there to ruin us. They are there to provide a level and honest playing field protecting all the competitors. I have seen many cases where the rules have been used to help competitors as well.
What I struggle with is why a TV viewer can impact the course of an event.
Lexi was penalized because of a video a viewer sent to the LPGA of her improperly replacing her ball on the green. The video was sent in a day later; after all cards had been signed and the round closed on Saturday. As it turned out Thompson was penalized four shots; two for not replacing the ball in its original position and two for signing a wrong score card. She went from two strokes ahead in the final round to two strokes behind. Most of us would have folded; thrown in the towel at that point but she made an incredibly resilient and brave comeback to secure a spot in a playoff which she ultimately lost to Ryu. She demonstrated those attributes which champions show: tenacity, perseverance, confidence. She showed guts and character to battle back from a serious blow during the heat of battle.
And I’m not arguing the infraction…. I’m arguing the timing and implementation of the penalties.
In my opinion, the only people that should be involved in the ruling process are the players and officials. And, furthermore, once a round is signed, sealed, and delivered for that day, it is over! Rulings made from “TV Land” should not have a place in our game as we don’t know the true intent of the viewer. The TV viewer’s job is to watch, enjoy, learn!
The questions come up then: Why would she even mark a 12” putt? Why would she mark it from the side? Why wouldn’t she go with her original routine of marking a putt?
Tournament golf provides a whole new world of pressure and tension. It causes us to get out of our normal routines; we think differently; we react differently. The heart pounds; the sweat pours out; the breathing intensifies. It could happen when putting to win that 19th hole refreshment, your club tournament; or the U.S. Open. I can only speculate that the pressure or a floating thought may have disrupted Thompson’s concentration just enough; just for a split second causing her to get out of her normal routine; causing her to be a little careless in the moment.
While the USGA and R and A have amended many rules, it is my opinion (and the opinion of many other writers) that golf’s governing bodies and associations make sure they “police” themselves. Do not allow TV viewers to influence the outcome of an event. Let the true spirit and character of golf shine on without undue influence from outside agencies whose intent is never questioned.
Until Next Month,