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Commentary: LPGA bogeys the call to penalize Thompson

By Dave Goldman 9:17 AM April 7, 2017

Sometimes the pursuit of justice goes too far. Yes, that sounds more like a line for one of John Tracy’s “Reality Checks.”

But there’s no sport more rule oriented, more hyper focused about protocol than golf.

Its greens are manicured with toe nail clippers and works from a rule book that was written by guys who look like Professor Dumbledore. (My kids will be happy with the Harry Potter reference.)

Which is why what happened on Sunday is so baffling.

During the final round of the ANA Inspirational, a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) major championship, Lexi Thompson had a three shot lead, but between the 12th and 13th holes was told of a rules violation — the mismarking of her ball by an inch. Though unintentional, it would still be expensive; two strokes for playing from the wrong spot and two more for handing in the incorrect scorecard.

The mistake was caught by a viewer who emailed the LPGA. The rules committee reviewed a replay and agreed. But Thompson was 12 holes into Sunday’s round and this was a Saturday violation.

She said afterwards there was no intention to skirt the rules. Everyone believes it was an honest mistake. She even recovered to force a playoff only to lose on the first hole.

There’s something refreshing about a self policing sport, which places a premium on the honor system, but folks at home are not marshals — they’re folks at home.

And once the final putt was sunk Saturday night, the book was closed on round three.

Look at the NFL. You can’t challenge a play after the next play has been run. It’s why coaches are always scrambling for that red flag.

Phil Mickelson is a three-time winner of the green jacket. This week, before the Masters Tournament in Augusta, he admitted to seeing plenty of guys lax in replacing their ball. So why not quietly approach them to be more attentive? Maybe golf needs someone watching everything in a replay booth. But any decisions have to come from the golf course.

Golfers are held to a higher standard. In football, line judges will let the receiver know if he’s lined up offsides and advise to him move back. Basketball referees warn players to keep their elbows down.

I can appreciate the rules committee’s desire to toe the line, but overcorrections like this are simply overbearing. Mistakes are part of the game. If you catch them, you catch them. If not, move on. Because in golf, “Oh by the way…” doesn’t work.

This is a commentary piece. The opinions shared here are not necessarily the opinions of Denali Media or its employees. 


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