It was just as frustrating for LPGA commissioner Mike Whan as the rest of us, seeing Lexi Thompson assessed what totaled to a four-stroke penalty in the middle of the final round of the LPGA’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, for something that happened the day prior.
However, rules are rules, and Whan’s rules staff applied them as written and interpreted by the USGA and R&A, giving Thompson two separate two-stroke penalties related to her failure to properly replace her ball on the 17th green in Saturday’s third round. She was penalized two shots for not replacing the ball properly and another two for signing an incorrect scorecard since she didn’t give herself the first penalty.
Social media blew up the LPGA’s timeline, infuriated at what had happened to Thompson — partially because the Rules of Golf can be hard to understand but mostly because the penalty was triggered by a fan who saw the infraction on TV on Sunday and emailed the LPGA to alert them to it. At that point, rules officials could do nothing but follow the footage to the natural conclusion.
That doesn’t mean it a left a good taste in Whan’s mouth.
“It’s frustrating,” Whan told Matt Adams on Tuesday morning on “Fairways of Life” on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio. “It’s embarrassing. It’s one of those situations where the penalty does not match the crime.”
After learning of the penalty on the 12th hole, Thompson battled to play the final holes in 2 under and earn a spot in a playoff with eventual winner So Yeon Ryu.
Whan understands the critiques of reviewing tips sent in by snitching fans from home, but admits that’s not under his jurisdiction.
“I think it’s a fair critique and a fair criticism whether or not somebody can point something out that causes us to review it, and whether or not we should do that a day later,” Whan said. “But that’s not an LPGA thing. That is pretty much an every major tour thing.
“I feel bad about it, but I’m not going to abort the Rules of Golf in the middle of a round. I’m not going to overrule something that is correctly ruled. It doesn’t mean we have to love that ruling and the penalty that goes with it.”
Meanwhile, the USGA has said it’s in no hurry to make a special change to the rules to remedy this type of situation from happening yet again, according to Golf.com.
However, there is good news potentially coming in the form of rules relief in 2019, the next time golf’s Rules are published. As part of a sweeping, unprecedented overhaul of the Rules, a proposed change will ban video evidence and the like from being used against a player after a situation occurred if “the player did all that could be reasonably expected under the circumstances to make an accurate estimation or measurement.”