AUGUSTA, Ga. – A day after Lexi Thompson was handed a day-old, four-shot penalty by the LPGA that cost her victory at the ANA Inspiration, Thompson’s golf peers on the PGA Tour came to her defense.
Rickie Fowler called the situation “unfortunate.” Justin Thomas said he was annoyed. Jimmy Walker thinks Thompson got a “really bad, raw deal.” They aren’t alone. Even Tiger Woods chimed in.
Thomas spent a considerable amount of time talking about the ordeal during his Monday press conference at the Masters; as did others at Augusta National. He said Thompson gained no advantage when she replaced her ball an inch away from its original position on a 1-foot putt on the 17th hole Saturday, and that it was obvious there was no intent on Thompson’s part to break the rules.
“When people say that she cheated is just ridiculous,” Thomas said. “She played better than everybody that week. She deserved to win and just because someone is sitting at home, gets behind a computer and decides to send an email to this mysterious email address and can change an outcome is bizarre to me. … I don’t know where this number or email is found, I really don’t.
“I think I’ve even Googled it before just because it’s bizarre to me that someone can do that, and it cost her a major championship.”
That’s the main argument for Thomas and other Tour players who agree that a guy on his couch in South Carolina shouldn’t be able to affect a tournament in California.
“There’s no other sport where anybody could call in and say, ‘Oh, that was a foul,’ ” Walker said. “It just doesn’t happen.”
Fowler didn’t like the timing of the penalty, either. Last summer, the USGA made two controversial rulings during major championships, one on Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open and another on Anna Nordqvist at the U.S. Women’s Open. (Johnson won, Nordqvist did not.) But those decisions came during the same round of the infraction. Thompson’s came a day later, and in the middle of her round.
“In my eyes, coming 24 hours after the fact, to me, you know, things should be handled the day of,” Fowler said. “Once you sign your scorecard, that’s kind of it, I feel like. You know, it’s somewhat like when you look at if something were to come up Monday after the tournament, the tournament’s done. So where do things close off? If something happened Thursday in the tournament, something were to come up on Sunday, then you go back and enforce a penalty there.
“… It just goes back to, there shouldn’t be anyone outside of the officials being able to make this call.”
Should call-in rules officials be cut off from phoning in violations?
“There’s no question it should be ended,” Fowler said. “I don’t think you could find one player that would say otherwise. Now if there’s an official always monitoring any video or anyone on camera, that’s fine, and I have no problem with that, if that’s an official. You look at other sports, they go to someone in the video booth and there’s an official in there that can look over stuff, great.”
Said Thomas: “It’s frustrating and it needs to go away and it needs to change. … As long as the communication is completely shut off, I don’t care how it happens. It just needs to happen.”