Lexi Thompson penalty hot topic at 2017 Masters

Lexi-Thompson-Golf-Penalty-ANA Inspiration Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Lexi Thompson penalty hot topic at 2017 Masters

PGA Tour

Lexi Thompson penalty hot topic at 2017 Masters

COMMENTARY

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Big Oak buzz? People are talking about golf! Woohoo!

The big, bad, buzz under the Big Oak? People are talking about golf … for all the wrong reasons.

Instead of projecting Masters favorites or pondering what time evening cocktail sessions will commence, the dignitaries under Augusta National’s majestic gathering spot could only fret about golf’s latest stain as the sport flirts with progressive reinvention.

Lexi Thompson’s ballmarking penalty that cost her a major championship has reopened old wounds and delivered yet another embarrassing reminder: golf has not adequately addressed gaping holes in rules administration.

Take your pick of high-definition-fueled, DVR-analyzed situations, blend them with an arcane method of professional golf tournament scorecard handling (going all the way back to the 1968 Masters), and shame returns to the game. The Big Oak circle agreed all parties involved in these incidents suffer and if the sport wants to thrive, it’s time for an emergency session of golf governors.

Because even the people who have phoned in to save a player from the grave injustice of an incorrect scorecard DQ – as David Eger did for Tiger Woods in 2013 – get disparaged every time we relive the sheer stupidity of penalty strokes because a player has signed their card after Thursday, Friday and Saturday rounds.

Sunday signed cards?

No problem, what’s done is done.

The inconsistency of when the statute of limitations expires on such penalties remains a big part of the Big Oak buzz. Each of these cruel sagas reinforces an unfortunate reality: the Rules of Golf are still woefully unprepared for the 21st century. It’s not certain if the reinvigorated 2019 Rules will put an end to the practice of a virtual rules official at home throwing the flag via TV and phone.

During his Masters press conference, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne deferred to Rules Committee head Fred Ridley on whether the tournament would accept viewer-submitted suggestions of a violation. Ridley said it “broke our hearts” to see the Lexi Thompson situation and commended the LPGA player for her handling of the matter.

“We follow The Rules of Golf that are promulgated by the governing bodies, but we are encouraged to know that this issue is something that is being considered as part of the rules modernization effort that’s going on right now, and we understand that there is a proposal that’s being discussed that would limit the use of video evidence,” Ridley said. 

“So we hope very much that something appropriate, an appropriate solution to this would be reached.  We would be very supportive in that and we hope that that will happen sooner, rather than later.”

Not soon enough in a week with possible wind gusts to 40 mph merging with greens stimping 13.

Not soon enough in a wonderful sport constantly on the defensive about its rules, the integrity of its players and the competence of its mostly competent leaders. 

Not soon enough to let the 2017 Masters be entirely about the coming of spring and the joys of watching golf at this majestic place.

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