COMMENT: Lexi deserves penalty, but ban armchair anoraks

Joy Chakravarty 23:12 03/04/2017
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Lexi Thompson cries during the final round of the ANA Inspiration

What happened to Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration was incredibly cruel and unfortunate.

And yet, what cannot be denied is that she was in breach of a rule of golf, and she rightfully got penalized for that.

Everything else is subject to people’s opinion.

These are the hard facts – during the third round of the tournament, which is the first major of the LPGA season, the American marked her ball on the 17th green, and while replacing it, she did not put it at the right spot. Lexi was about an inch away from where she should have been.

On the next day, while she was on the ninth hole and cruising towards a victory, a TV viewer sent an e-mail to LPGA rules officials. After checking the veracity of his claim, the officials informed Lexi on the 12th hole that she was being penalized four shots – two for marking her ball incorrectly and breaking Rule 20-7c, and two for submitting an incorrect scorecard under Rule 6-6d.

Leading by three shots at that late stage of the tournament, Lexi then had to produce some incredible golf to play the last six holes in two-under par and make it to the play-off, which she eventually lost.

So, here are some of the questions that are being asked on what is now being termed LexiGate…

Should there be more common sense applied in the matter of rules?

Golf is trying to move in that direction with the proposed new rules that will come into effect in 2019. At least, Lexi was fortunate she wasn’t disqualified for signing a wrong card, something that used to happen in the very near past.

Remember the Padraig Harrington incident in Abu Dhabi? The Irishman was disqualified the next day after shooting a 65, because his ball moved ever so slightly while marking and he failed to replace it in its original spot. He should have signed for a 67, but submitting a wrong card led to his disqualification.

However, applying common sense to rules is subjective and it is very difficult to establish intent to cheat, or not.

Should viewers be allowed to call in and report infringements?

Golf is a unique sport in this respect. No other sport takes congnizance of facts brought to light by armchair anoraks. Just imagine how many football results would have to change if this was allowed.

As it is, the sport is blessed to have a system that is mostly self-governed, and then there are playing partners, or for that matter any other player or caddie in the field, who can question another player’s action and get officials involved.

Most importantly, golf is a game of honour, and it is rare to find intentional cheaters on the Tours. If they do, they are very quickly found out by their competitors and are marked for rest of their careers.

Really, TV viewers should have no role to play in officiating what is a self-policed sport.

Should players be penalized retrospectively during a tournament?

Why not? Breach of rule is a breach of rule.

Was the quantum of penalty heaped on Lexi too harsh?

It was, if we go by common sense. It wasn’t, if we go by the rules. How was she supposed to know on Saturday that there was a breach of rule and she should have signed for a 69 and not a 67.

Was the Lexi incident detrimental to golf?

Definitely yes. Only because she is an extremely popular player on the LPGA Tour, and American fans would have loved to see a home winner, which was denied. Most fans do not understand the intricacies of the rules, and when something like this happens, they get cheesed off.

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