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Apr 25

And Now, the “Lexi Rule”

Changes Have Been Made, but the Fossils are Far from Up to Date on the Lexi Rule 

For a fan continuing to look at the Lexi Thompson situation, the whole incident hurts more this week than it did last week. Thompson herself has maintained poise and civility through the week, and it appears as though she will continue to concentrate on things she can control, rather than spout off about things she can’t. In the classiness department, then, it’s Lexi one, USGA and RA…nil.

My imagination has continued to think of the worst scenarios, even worse than the one we got that could have emerged. I am imagining a player like Lexi standing at the podium receiving the trophy, about to be told that she didn’t win it after all, because a couch marshall in Akron, Ohio recorded something suspicious on his phone, and sent it in.

While my imagination is at it, let me conjure up a group of chrysallises lining the dusty ruins of the Royal Ancient and USGA caves, from which lumber and creak the golf gods whenever there’s dirty work to be done on the irrational penalty front. I wonder, isn’t this is the game that is searching for ways to rekindle fascination among young people, and bring some real pulse into the 21st century version of hitting rocks with sticks in pastures? If so, I have a suggestion. Bring these brittle crustaceans of confusing minutia up to date first, or get rid of them. Turn the USGA into the marvelous museum that it is, but tell them to keep their mitts off the rule book – someone else will take it from here, someone born after the Jurassic period.

Well, they did their best, although Lexi Thompson certainly has nothing to show for it. And, to be frank, their best only moved them up a century or two toward a realistic modern game. They have, in this week’s decisions, slightly modified and softened their stance on some occurrences on the course, but they definitely did not address the problem. I know that because I can determine who wins the tournament if I look sharply enough. The new variation of the rule that caught up Lexi in the net now “limits” the use of video replay. If the infraction can’t be seen by the naked eye, the penalty won’t generally be brought into play by technology that can see it. In the second brave step, the ghosts of tournaments past let the player off the hook if he or she has made a reasonable judgement about a drop or ball marking on the green. It will heretofore be labeled the “She didn’t really mean it” rule.
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I would appreciate it if someone would remind me of exactly what a course marshall does, and in doing so, wouold they please explain to me the time frame in which assessment of a penalty is valid. In football, the chance to call a foul disappears at the snap of the next play – done, over, doesn’t matter what you saw. In what other sport can a penalty be assessed the following day, and is there an end to it?

Mike Whan says he is “embarrased” by what happens, and I would be too, although it’s not his fault. And now, fans are clamoring for Lexi to tell her side of the story. She already told it – she wasn’t aware that she had done those things, end of story. Does the gallery just want to make a soap opera out of it? Is everything and everyone just grist for the drama mill?

Bottom line – when I can influence a professional golf tournament, the fossils have blown it. The crowd doesn’t vote on touchdown and interceptions, line play at Wimbledon or Fischer-Karpov chess matches. What are ancient…and I do mean ancient…shapers of golf thinking? If a course marshall doesn’t spot it in time, 100,000 couch marshalls don’t have one iota more validity as decision-makers. It’s not like we’re risking sad situations by leaving fans out of it. A sad situation is precisely what we got, and Lexi is its victim. I hope she can shake it off. I know that I would be hopping mad.
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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.