Mickelson says Thompson 'should be given the trophy'

Jim SLATER
AFP
RANCHO MIRAGE, CA - APRIL 2: Lexi Thompson makes a shot out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on April 2, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. Robert Laberge/Getty Images/AFPRANCHO MIRAGE, CA - APRIL 2: Lexi Thompson makes a shot out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on April 2, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. Robert Laberge/Getty Images/AFP (AFP Photo/ROBERT LABERGE)

Golf - Rule change to use of video evidence after Lexi fiasco

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA - APRIL 2: Lexi Thompson makes a shot out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on April 2, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. Robert Laberge/Getty Images/AFPRANCHO MIRAGE, CA - APRIL 2: Lexi Thompson makes a shot out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on April 2, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. Robert Laberge/Getty Images/AFP (AFP Photo/ROBERT LABERGE)

Augusta (United States) (AFP) - Phil Mickelson called for Lexi Thompson to be awarded the LPGA's ANA Inspiration title despite a rules violation discovered by a television viewer that led to a four-stroke penalty.

Mickelson, a five-time major winner seeking his fourth green jacket when the year's first men's major tournament opens Thursday, said the decision to inflict the punishment for a day-old violation should be reversed.

"To have a tournament be decided like that, with all the scenarios going around, as far as viewers calling in, as far as it being a one foot putt with really no advantage -- just a little bit of loose marking if you will, something that happens all the time, intentionally and unintentionally -- I just think it should be reversed," Mickelson said.

"I think that she should be given the trophy."

Thompson was hit with a four-stroke penalty with six holes remaining in Sunday's final round of the year's first women's major at Rancho Mirage for improperly replacing the ball on a one-foot putt, an infraction in Saturday's third round spotted by a television viewer.

Despite being distraught at seeing her three-stroke lead erased, Thompson fought back to force a playoff before falling to South Korea's Ryu So-Yeon.

"How in the world she did what she did I have no idea," said 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus of Thompson's fightback after the news.

Rory McIlroy, trying to complete a career grand slam this week with a Masters triumph, said the punishment far outweighed the crime.

"It was tough on Lexi," McIlroy said. "The two-shot penalty, fine. There was a rules infraction there. I get it. But two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard? She didn't know she was signing an incorrect scorecard at the time and she didn't have a chance to rectify that. That was the one that really I think outraged most people.

"I know Lexi and I've known her for a few years. She is not a cheat. She's a great girl, a great player, great competitor."

- Ball marking is an issue -

While the notion of viewers policing golf got big attention in the aftermath, poor ball placement after marking was also an issue for Mickelson and McIlroy.

"I know a number of guys on tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it," Mickelson said.

"I feel like we've all kind of been a little lax at times in the markings of our golf ball and I hate to see it cost somebody a major championship."

Nicklaus said anything not caught before the round ends shouldn't be reviewable afterwards.

"That isn't necessarily what (the rule) is. But that's what I think," he sai.

McIlroy said the act of marking, putting a flat round holding spot on the green and picking up the ball, is an imprecise act to start with.

"It doesn't go exactly in the same place again," he said. "OK, it might have moved a quarter of an inch. There may have been a rules infraction there. But I just think what's happened the last 12 months with all these rules controversies in the game, it just doesn't put out a good image for us and for the game of golf."

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson played the last few holes of his US Open victory last June knowing he was to be assessed a penalty for a violation from the front nine.

And Tiger Woods long faced extra scrutiny from cameras as he won 14 major titles.

"I think Tiger said it best -- people at home don't need to be wearing striped shirts: they don't need to be calling in and officiating us," McIlroy said.

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