Lexi Thompson left in tears but it’s the world of golf that should be sad today

USA's Lexi Thompson fell foul of the rules in California and an eagle-eyed TV viewer!

USA's Lexi Thompson fell foul of the rules in California and an eagle-eyed TV viewer! - Credit: PA

Sometimes the ‘holier than thou’ attitudes of golf really do my head in, writes Mike Bacon in his latest Bacon’s Bites column.

At the weekend we saw a sad situation play out when American Lexi Thompson was left in tears after being handed a four-stroke penalty while leading the final round of the first major of the season at Mission Hills Country Club, in California – and then losing a play-off to So Yeon Ryu.

The reason she was given a four-shot penalty? Because a TV viewer spotted her breaking the rules!

Thompson was leading the tournament and had just completed the 12th hole in her final round, when she was informed that a viewer had e-mailed officials and asked them to look at the video of Thompson marking her ball on the 17th hole during her previous round.

Indeed, video showed Thompson appearing to put a marker at the side of her ball on the green before lifting it and replacing the ball in front of the marker prior to a putt of less than two feet.

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The LPGA said she “breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three.”

Her five-under-par third-round 67 was changed to a 71. Hot Dog!

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She battled on and birdied the 18th to force a play-off which Ryu won at the first hole.

So, what on earth is going on in the world of golf?

Don’t get me wrong. The sport’s etiquette and its rules are there for good reason. But when you start to take on board TV viewer interference (because that’s all it was), then golf is on a very slippery slope.

As someone who plays the game, in my ‘hapless putter’ opinion, Thompson will have gained no advantage from putting her ball down sideways to the marker, rather than behind it. She was stupid not to concentrate and get it right, but I will wager my Ipswich Witches season ticket it was more careless than deliberate.

The LPGA should have ignored the viewer.

They could have thanked him/her kindly (and after putting the receiver down, shouted very loudly; ‘Get a life’), then gone and had a word with the officials who would have been walking round with Thompson when it happened, to ask if they spotted it.

“Is this a joke?” Thompson apparently said after being informed by a rules official, before making birdies on three of the last six holes to force the play-off.

Sadly, Lexi it wasn’t.

LPGA Tour rules official Sue Witters, who had to break the news to Thompson, said she understood the outrage of fans but insisted what could she do?

“What’s my choice?” she said.

“A violation in the rules and then it would be the opposite story: ‘Oh, they knew, why didn’t they do anything about it’.”

Indeed, I can appreciate that.

But sadly golf has shown its ‘old school’ roots and a total lack of 2017 common sense.

There is more than enough video/slo motion cameras all over major sporting events, like the one at Mission Hills, to spot wrong doing.

If that technology didn’t pick up Thompson’s ‘crime’ at the time, along with the hundreds of officials who would have been on course too, then that’s just the way it is.

For members of the public to act as referees, sets a dangerous precedent.

What next? And how long is an infringement ‘live’?

Could I point out a ‘rule break’ from the 2015 Masters if I spotted one now as I look back at my DVD of the event and ask for players to be penalised shots?

Wake up golf!

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