LPGA ruling controversy raises players’ ire at Masters
The Rules of Golf will be simplified and “modernized” in January 2019 if proposed changes announced in March are approved.
None of those rules, set forth by the United States Golf Association and the R&A, mentions television viewer call-ins or emails, however.
An email to the LPGA Tour during Sunday’s final round of the ANA Inspiration pointed out an infraction involving Lexi Thompson on Saturday, leading to a four-stroke penalty. She was informed of the infraction on the 13th tee Sunday and ended up losing in a playoff.
Thompson moved her ball about an inch to the left after putting her marker down on the 17th green in the third round. She got a two-shot penalty for that infraction and another two for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Before 2016, she would have been disqualified.
That year the rule was changed, waiving disqualification if the golfer wasn’t aware of the infraction after the round.
However, one of the proposed rules for 2019 might have absolved Thompson of the penalties and heartache on Sunday.
There is a new reasonable judgment standard. It states: “When you need to estimate or measure a spot, point, line, area of distance under a rule, your reasonable judgment will not be second-guessed based on later evidence (such as video review) if you did all that could be reasonably be expected under the circumstances to estimate or measure accurately.”
In Thompson’s case, she said she was unaware she moved her ball away from the marker.
A number of the players at the Masters Tournament on Monday voiced their displeasure with TV “call-ins” leading to penalties.
“I think we’ve seen some stuff in the past year that is not making the game look very good at all,” Rickie Fowler said. “There’s no other sport where people can call or e-mail in or contact officials regarding an issue.”
“People calling in, most of the times, I think it’s too picky,” said J.B. Holmes. “It’s time for something like that to change. If one of the playing partners call it, that’s different.”
PGA Tour veteran Jim Furyk offered his opinion, saying, “The call-in thing is very interesting. We all want the rules to be applied properly. And you’re trying to figure out the area it goes over the top.”
Fowler was asked why the PGA Tour’s playing board hasn’t been more vocal about having the rule changed.
“It’s been talked about for years,” he said. “I’m surprised it’s still around and hasn’t been changed.”
It’s the second LPGA major in the past year that has been affected by a penalty based on an outside call. In the U.S. Women’s Open, which is run by the USGA, Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-shot penalty when her club hit the sand on the second playoff hole on the way to losing to Brittany Lang. It was reported to the USGA by Fox TV.
In the men’s U.S. Open last year, eventual champion Dustin Johnson was penalized after the final round because his ball moved slightly on the fifth green after he had grounded his club, but that was caught by tournament officials, not a TV viewer. Johnson claimed he hadn’t grounded his club.
“I heard about it on the range so I don’t know exactly what happened,” Johnson said about the Thompson penalties. “It’s always tough. It’s a tough thing to handle, but she’s a good player and I think she’ll be all right.”
The proposed rules for 2019 include:
Accidental movement of balls on greens
Where and how to take relief
Application of red penalty areas to non-water hazards
Repair of damaged greens, including spike marks
Approval of distance-measuring devices
Elimination of penalties for accidental touching of loose impediments in bunkers and penalty areas
The outlawing of caddies assisting in alignment; a greater emphasis on player integrity in administering rulings
The promotion of measures to speed up the pace of play