Lexi Thompson Ruling

By now, after having absorbed the tradition and beauty of the Masters, golfers have most likely calmed down over the Lexi Thompson ruling. With cooler heads prevailing, let’s take a look at what upset everyone.

In the third round of the recent ANA Championship, Lexi marked the position of her ball on the 17th putting green and lifted it as permitted by Rule 16-1b. That Rule requires the ball to be “replaced”.

After a viewer email to the LPGA alerting them of a possible infraction, the LPGA Rules staff reviewed the tape of the incident and determined that the ball was not “replaced” on the spot from which it was lifted. Having no statute of limitations on when a penalty may be discovered and applied during a competition, the LPGA Rules staff notified her of the previous day’s two stroke penalty for not replacing the ball and an additional penalty of two strokes for failing to add the penalty to her scorecard the day before; even though she did not know she had incurred a penalty.

The LPGA Rules staff did everything correctly; right by the book. You cannot blame them. If you want to blame someone, blame the Rules of Golf. Just lay off the officials. Do you think they were happy to have to give Lexi the bad news?

I have studied the Rules of Golf over the past twenty years often hiding behind the saying “I don’t write ‘em, I just enforce them.” I still keep the same position but it is getting increasingly difficult to weather the storm.

One of the basic tenets of golf has been to play your ball from the teeing ground into the hole and don’t touch it during the playing of that hole until you do get it into the hole. To make things a little easier, in 1960, the Rulesmakers allowed a ball on the putting green to be lifted, and cleaned if necessary, provided it was replaced back on the spot from which it was lifted. The penalty was, and still is, two strokes if you do not replace the ball.

Now, I know that she only missed the spot by one inch or less. However, it would be impossible to reduce the penalty from two to one stroke since it was so close or try to impose a sliding scale of penalties depending on the distance of how far away she missed the spot. There are many instances in the Rules of Golf when you just have to draw a line and this is one of them. Zero tolerance. Put it back on THE spot.

I also know that many can make the argument that a ball is not necessarily replaced exactly from where it was lifted. It may be off by a dimple or two. I concede; valid point.

Maybe the Committee should adopt the principle in Decision 18/4. If the change (or difference) in position is not reasonably discernible to the naked eye, there is no penalty.

The most aggravating point of this whole incident to many is that a viewer sent in the email to tip off the officials. Many believe that they should not be allowed.

Well, to this point, the Rulesmakers changed the Rules beginning in 2016 that would allow players penalized as a result of “call in viewers” to stay in the competition instead of being disqualified by adding additional penalty strokes (two in this case). How did that seem to work out?

It seems to me that it is back to the drawing board. The encouraging part of all of this is that the Rulesmakers recently have seemed to come out with amendments that change things when they get egg on their face (last year’s US Open and Women’s Open come to mind).

Stay tuned. I am sure they are working on it!

Remember, use the index or the table of contents to find the correct Rule that applies to the situation and follow the Rules of Golf to help yourself to enjoy the game of golf.

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