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Apr 04

USGA, Lexi and the Middle Ages

Lexi Unfairly Ruled By Armchair Referee

What Century Are We In, for Crying Out Loud?

So I’m sitting in my recliner on a Tuesday, and I notice that when basketball player X hit the game-winner on Sunday night, his foot was on the out of bounds line? Well, I’ll certainly take care of that. I’ll just call ESPN and the NCAA and show them my video. It’s a real power trip knowing that I could overturn last year’s superbowl by presenting video evidence that Brady’s knee was down, or that the interception was bobbled on the way out bounds.

What sport works that way, except for golf? Doesn’t the game have its own people to cover infractions of the type that did Lexi Thompson in at the ANA? If I’m going to be an officially sanctioned referee, umpire, or marshall, depending on the sport, I should be required to go through what the real ones go through. It should be determined that I’m not sitting at home as a anti-Lexi fan, a Shanshan Feng partisan, or under the influence. Measures should be taken that I can’t photoshop a still of my claim – and on, and on, and on. For all practical purposes, Tiger Woods is correct – “Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes.” We watch the game, but we are not the game.
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Last weekend, Lexi Thompson apparently replaced a ball slightly off its original mark at the ANA Inspiration, a major on the LPGA Tour. A TV viewer called in and red flagged it, and Thompson was awarded a two-stroke penalty. A marshall sauntered up and told her about it on the 13th tee, a day later. The marshall couldn’t go to bed that night having let a rule slide by, but enforcing it “made [her] sick.” That makes sense, but she shouldn’t have had to tell her at all. The domino effect of the first penalty led to a second assessment of two strokes when Lexi signed and turned in an incorrect scorecard by being unaware of the first.

For starters, if you’re entertaining thoughts about Lexi Thompson purposely committing an infraction, don’t you dare go there. Lexi has integrity, and is too bright to try and pull that off anyway. So, the USGA , an organization that would be more in vogue as physicists or magistrates in the Dark Ages, decided that despite committing an innocent infraction, all collateral damage infractions should come into force. You can be penalized a second time for not knowing about the first one. Lexi was excellent enough to put together some birdies and still make it to a playoff, knowing that she would have won the tournament outright. Se Yeon Ru birdied the 18th to get into the playoff, and eventually won the tournament.

If an infraction has to be called (by someone in an official capacity at the course), why is replacing a ball an inch or less away from its original position a two-stroke penalty. Shouldn’t it be like having taken a shot, one stroke? And the scorecard thing – that infraction should be called when someone purposely signs an incorrect scoreboard, knowing that it’s false. Then the collateral damage should be disqualification. But without knowledge of the first infraction, just adjust the scorecard from the day before. It’s not scripture fresh off the mountain. It can be rewritten if nothing nefarious was committed. That should be one on Lexi, not four.

The idea of making the rules of a game so airtight that no wiggle room can be gained is all fine and good, but if you can’t catch the violation before the next shot, life should go on, not upend itself a day later from a viewer in Oshkosh. The scorecard thing, in the absence of malice, should be a correctable item. And Lexi should have and would have won the ANA if the USGA would take off their capes and cowls and oversee a modern, sensible game. So, give Lexi one stroke, name her winner of the tournament, and have the trophy shipped back. Hey, it’s only been a couple of days, and I’m a TV viewer.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.