After Lexi Thompson fiasco, golf must scrap or limit viewer snitching

Lexi Thompson ANA Inspiration - Final Round Kelly Kline/Getty Images

After Lexi Thompson fiasco, golf must scrap or limit viewer snitching

LPGA Tour

After Lexi Thompson fiasco, golf must scrap or limit viewer snitching

COMMENTARY

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Once again, golf looked silly on Sunday at a major championship. What do the rules fiascos of Oakmont, CordeValle and Mission Hills have in common?

Terrible timing.

Yes, Thompson broke Rule 20-7c and Rule 6-6d at the ANA Inspiration. Yes, the LPGA carried out the necessary penalty strokes according to USGA rules and tour regulations.

But changes must be made going forward.

The rules makers of this ancient game could not have foreseen a time when HD television and DVR would enable someone to rewind and dissect a split-second of action from their living room hours, even days, after the incident occurred.

Two-time major winner Stacy Lewis offered a reasonable solution: Restrict the amount of time viewers can call/email concerns.

“Once the next round starts, the previous round should be ‘closed,’ ” Lewis texted.

Lexi Thompson ANA Inspiration

Lexi Thompson struggled to hold back tears after Sunday’s loss in the ANA Inspiration. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Those who want to weigh in with rules questions need to do so while the action is live.

Under the current rules, had someone emailed about Thompson’s Saturday infraction on Monday, it would’ve been too late. The competition would have been considered closed.

The LPGA should take that same concept and apply it to each round. That would eliminate the kind of four-stroke fiasco Thompson experienced for a 1-inch mistake on a 1-foot putt.

LPGA veteran Angela Stanford agrees with Lewis.

“It’s the only sport that this is allowed,” she said. “Needs to be changed.”

LPGA Hall of Famer Karrie Webb called for the USGA to eliminate call-ins altogether.

“We have policed ourselves for 200+ years,” she tweeted. “No need for call ins!”

Thomas Pagel, senior director of Rules of Golf and Amateur Status for the USGA, told Golfweek the organization is not considering such a ban.

“The Rules of Golf are issued based on facts and evidence presented to the committee,” Pagel wrote in an email. “They review all sources. To not address evidence presented through video would mean the Rules would not be applied in full.”

There is a bit of good news, however, going forward.

Under the Rules Modernization initiative there would be a new standard in 2019 for the committee to apply in a situation like Thompson’s.

Pagel said the USGA and R&A have been discussing the use of video evidence and have developed a new standard to limit its use when a player is estimating or measuring a spot, point, line, area or distance.

Proposed new Rule 1.3a(2) provides that ”so long as the player does all that can be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement, the player’s reasonable judgment will be accepted even if later shown to be wrong by other information (such as video technology).”

Gary Player

Gary Player says the practice of viewers calling infractions should be ‘scrapped.’ (Getty Images)

While that might have helped Thompson’s cause, it still doesn’t address the issue of timing.

Gary Player likened it to a football match.

“Could you imagine somebody calling in after the second quarter, and saying, you know, I saw something in the first quarter,” said Player from Augusta National. “They’d laugh at them …”

“In golf, this is the crux of the matter. Out of a field of 70 that qualify (for the weekend), how many are being scrutinized by television. Maybe 12? Fifteen? So 15 are in this category, and the all the rest are not. Is that equity? No, there’s no equity, and we’re alway trying to have equity. That should be scrapped.”

Common sense, he said, did not prevail here.

Bad calls happen in sports. Golf is a game, not a perfect science. If players, caddies, tour officials and arm-chair officials watching a live round of golf miss an infraction, the integrity of the game is not lost. It’s simply played by imperfect humans.

“I cannot think of anything more sad that what happened to her,” said Player.

Which is why it shouldn’t happen again.

– Jeff Babineau contributed to this report.

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