Top 10 golf controversies of 2017

Lexi Thompson rule USGA ruling Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Top 10 golf controversies of 2017

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Top 10 golf controversies of 2017

The retroactive four-stroke penalty Lexi Thompson received at the ANA Inspiration continued to make headlines eight months after the fact.  Just last week, golf’s governing bodies decided to do-away with viewer call-ins like the one which led to Thompson’s major fiasco.

It became one of the biggest stories of 2017, which seems appropriate considering how many rules disputes, social media dust-ups, and heated debates arose over the course of the year.

With that in mind, here are the top 10 golf controversies for 2017.

10. Playing the field?

 Omar Uresti teed it up in the season’s final major at Quail Hollow, his third consecutive PGA Championship appearance. The 49-year-old from Austin, Texas snagged one of 20 coveted spots reserved for club pros, which didn’t sit well with several peers. Problem being, he’s not actually a club pro anywhere. His spot in the field brought an ongoing debate to the forefront and raised questions regarding the very definition of what it means to be a “club pro.”

9. Langer Legal

Bernhard Langer continued his run of dominance on the senior circuit, winning seven PGA Tour Champions events and three majors. He also shot back at critics who questioned his putting stroke, the legality of which is still up for debate entering the new year.

8. Disappearing act

Brent McLaughlin made for a fun story as the tattooed, Harley-riding tournament director for the RBC Canadian Open. That story took a hard left turn when McLaughlin lost his title midway through the tournament for reasons which remain unclear.  

7. Weather woes

Several LPGA players cried foul after dealing with some serious weather at the McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open. Video indeed revealed ridiculous wind gusts and less-than-ideal, perhaps unsafe playing conditions. This also sparked debate regarding conditions for women’s golf in general and came shortly after a controversial new LPGA dress code.

6. Rahm Rules

Jon Rahm enjoyed a stellar season 2016-17 season, during which he rose to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Rankings. He also found himself at the center of several controversies including salty on-course behavior and two separate rules issues. Lee Westwood called him out mid-round for a possible infraction at the British Open, which came just one week after a ball-marking issue at the Irish Open. 

5. Starting over

A pair of seemingly-routine penalties at the LPGA’s KP Financial Star Championship opened a can of worms that ultimately led to the cancellation of all Round-1 scores and the resignation of the leading rules official. Yeah, this one got weird in a hurry.

4. Protect the field?

Are players on the PGA Tour really leaving balls unmarked on the green in order to help players in their group? It sure seems that way at times, and the issue of “backstopping” eventually led to a fierce debate in the Golfweek offices and beyond. 

3. Chamblee vs. Everybody

Brandel Chamblee isn’t exactly looking for a fight by sharing his opinions on Golf Channel. Just doing his job, really, with a refreshingly-candid and sometimes-critical approach. But golfer’s aren’t criticized nearly as often as athletes in other sports, which is probably why the likes of Rory McIlroy, Billy Horschel, Jason Dufner, Ian Poulter and others took issue with Chamblee throughout the year.

2. Concession controversy

“I didn’t say that was good.”

A simple statement from Erica Shepherd in response to her caddie’s question at the U.S. Girls’ Junior led to a really ugly situation. Shepherd, a 16-year-old Duke commit, was viciously attacked on social media regarding the conclusion of her semifinal match and ultimate victory in the event.

1. Inspiring change

The wildest – and most controversial – story of 2017 took place at the ANA Inspiration in April. Lexi Thompson was cruising to victory before being informed of a retroactive 4-stroke penalty, which ended up costing her the title and resulted in one, big conversation about viewer call-ins and their place in the game. This is one of those stories that will be recalled for decades to come.

 

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