This was the week of “you can go home again” for two professionals golfers, but shamefully, not a third. Curious? Let’s mash.

LPGA Tour: ANA Inspiration is Ryu’s second major title

For a long time on Sunday, five of the world’s top players were in the thick of the race with no clear resolution in sight. Michelle Wie (6th), Christie Kerr (7th) and Ariya Jutanugarn (T8) all made runs this week, but lacked the consistency to make a true run at the title. Closer still were Suzann Pettersen, Minjee Lee and Inbee Park, all tied for third at 13-under par, one slim shot from a playoff.

And there was a playoff that should have never been, but we’ll address that in the next section. Both Lexi Thompson (2014 champion) and So Yeon Ryu (2011 U.S. Open winner) birdied the par-5 closer to reach 14-under. Off they went to overtime.

On the first extra hole, Ryu made birdie and claimed the right to leap into Poppy’s Pond, adjacent to the final green.

LPGA Tour: 2nd Major Decided By Television. Enough Already!

For the second time in two years, a major championship was decided by television. In 2016, Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty for grazing a single grain of sand in her backswing. The naked-to-the-human-eye contact came courtesy of the high-speed, slo-motion cameras used at golf telecasts. On Sunday, Lexi Thompson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for improperly replacing her ball on Saturday, and another two strokes for incorrectly signing her scorecard. As a result, Thompson’s massive, back-nine lead was eliminated… in the name of what, I ask?

This latest fiasco brought back memories of Dustin Johnson and the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Fortunately for the USGA, Johnson was able to overcome the undue assessment of strokes and claim the major that was rightfully his. Thompson was not as fortunate. The penalty ultimately cost her the outright victory, thrusting her into a playoff that she lost.

It is my position that television review should be placed in the hands of rules committees at events. Those officials should not field calls from fans across the globe. No other sport allows outside interference in the determination of its outcomes and golf should take immediate steps to remedy this. The notion of the viewing public as bully has gone on long enough. LPGA and other tours/ruling bodies, it’s time to take action.

PGA Tour: Henley bags 3rd PGA Tour title at Shell Houston Open

The shadow hanging over the Houston Open each year is the final invitation to the Masters. In this year’s edition, three golfers with no invitation were in the mix with one who needed a win to affirm his position in a certain echelon.

Russell Henley trailed third-round leader Sung Kang by four strokes as the day began. Henley hoped to return to the winner’s circle after two winless years on the PGA Tour. Kang had never won on the PGA Tour and sought the same invitation as Henley. Also in contention was Luke List, a one-time Masters participant and a zero-time PGA Tour winner, and Rickie Fowler. List lurked but never took the lead. Fowler had the lead on Saturday but gave it back late. More on that one later.

On Sunday, Henley teed it up and won it. He made 10 birdies on the day with a double bogey (9th) and bogey (18th) for a score of 20-under, but he had enough of a cushion over Kang to win by three.

Winning WITB: See Henley’s clubs

After opening 65-63, Kang lost his comfort with low scores and finished 71-72. The performance was good enough for him to finish 2nd for the first time in his career. List (68) and Fowler (70) tied for 3rd at -16, one behind Kang.

PGA Tour: Will Rickie ever be a consistent winner on Tour?

Rickie Fowler played himself out of another PGA Tour title over a six-hole stretch at Houston. He was tied with Sung Kang late Saturday but bogeyed the 17th hole, then four-putted the 18th for double bogey. Suddenly down by three shots, Fowler needed a strong Sunday start to settle the nerves and reaffirm his role as contender. Instead, a par-double-par-bogey start dropped Fowler farther back and the four-time tour winner finished four back of the top spot.

Fowler plays himself into contention with regularity, but more often than not he finds a way to not take the title. It happened in Phoenix in 2016 and again at Houston this week. Yes, Fowler did win six weeks ago at the Honda Classic, his fourth PGA Tour title. Wins at the Wells Fargo Championship (2014), the Players Championship (2015) and the Deutsche Bank Championship (2015) are also impressive, but it just feels like he should have so many more.

Fowler’s potential has been limitless in his eight years on Tour, but he’s trending more toward that of a tour pro who might have been elite but wasn’t. Here’s hoping he proves us wrong.

PGA Tour Champions: MGR Classic again to Jimenez

For much of this year’s Mississippi Gulf Resorts Classic on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, Miguel Angel Jimenez appeared in search of consistency while Gene Sauers seemed poised to add to his win total. Come Sunday, things got more confusing before they cleared up.

Sauers was 2-over through his first nine holes, then went on a back-nine birdie run, making five in nine holes. Unfortunately for Sauers, he countered his six birdies with five bogeys and ended the day at 13-under. Fortunately, he still had a glimmer of hope.

Jimenez found his form on Sunday, making five birdies against one bogey through 17 holes. With two strokes in hand, the Spaniard reached the par-4 closer in three, then three putted for double bogey. Just like that, the two men headed off to a playoff. Sauers found a greenside bunker while Jimenez hit the putting surface. Moments later, the Spaniard drained his 18-foot putt for a fourth Champions Tour win.

Closing fast but running out of holes were rookie Steve Stricker and veteran Bernhard Langer. Both finished one shot out of the playoff at 12-under. Stricker had eight birdies for 65 on Sunday, while Langer had a clean card with 5 birds for 67.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

54 COMMENTS

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  1. Maybe the email / call in from couch potatoes should be looked at further, but there’s no denying Lexi made a high handicap / novice error in not correctly ( for whatever reason ) marking her ball in a manner befitting to a Professional Golfer..

  2. I agree it’s all about fairness and the inequality of the methodology.
    Here is an LOL moment for those thinking this incident is absurd and and a “why don’t we do this” moment if you disagree.
    Let’s get the rule enforcers to pony up the $$ to cover each player with a high speed camera start to finish. After the event is finished they can analyze the terabytes of footage (over and over until they get the right call) – lots of new tech jobs created in the US. Once every player is analyzed thoroughly they can dish out the appropriate (to the rule book) penalties and enforce them, recalculate the scores and determine the winner. What fun that would be – just think.
    The actual winner could be a player who shot 2 rounds in the 80’s, never had a penalty assessed, missed the cut and went home.

    The LPGA/PGA could create a reality TV channel of this process happening – what TV revenue they could accumulate! I certainly would be watching the final determinations.
    Any rules official following the group who missed what the high speed camera picked up could be offered remedial training, or perhaps let go. Maybe another reality show here and more $$-maybe modeled after the Apprentice – WOW what fun and $$$ for the LPGA/PGA.
    BTW- anybody know where I can get all the high speed footage for last years Masters? Maybe I can get the jacket reassigned before sunday. LOL

  3. Hope they ratify the proposed rule changes in 2019 that will eliminate stupid rules like getting penalized for signing a scorecard with the wrong score even though it was correct according to the officials at the time of signing.

  4. The penalties should be seen by the officials and not fans. If the officials miss it then they miss it. TV fans should not be allowed to contact the news or anyone till the tournament is over. They should have let her know before she signed her score card. No penalty had been called till after the fact. That was so messed up.

  5. Replace it in the spot as you picked it up from. Rule was broken and penalty was incurred end of story. No story if marked properly regardless of who reported it.

  6. Question – at the time the LPGA official approached her and told her does Alexi Thompson have grounds to appeal due to the nature of the penalty? As in a day late and by an outside agency.

  7. If the LPGA, PGA etc. Keep letting spectators call in and determine the outcome of the event then as a player I would not sign Any scorecard until the end of the tournament so as to give the spectator plenty of time to call in. The 2 stroke penalty for signing a score card that I did not know was wrong at the time I signed it is just plain stupid. So let’s not sign Any scorecard until Monday. Maybe the viewer had to work Sunday.

  8. If the lpga or pga keep letting spectators call in and determine the outcome of the event, then I as a player would not sign Any scorecard until the day after the tournament ended 2 give them a chance to critic my rounds.

  9. Looks like some people on the LPGA tour really wanted to justify their B.S. jobs. Making a ruling with with just 6 holes left is complete and utter garbage.

  10. Poor Lexi, come on, she broke the rules plain and simple. Other tour players expect their playing partners to follow the rules and call penalties on themselves if they have an infraction. She’s a pro she should know you can’t place your ball an inch away from where you picked it up from, period. Was she cheating, was there a spike mark that she noticed just before she was going to make the putt so she did what she did, who knows, I would hope not.
    She never lost because some viewer called in she lost because she incurred a penalty. She played great afterwards and almost won it. She’ll learn from her mistake and hopefully every tour player will too.
    I’m just amazed at how often these tour players don’t know the rules of the game they get paid so well to play.

  11. As it is, Lexi is a hero for how she conducted herself after being notified of the penalty. She’s got the whole golfing world rooting for her. Imagine though, if she had not been penalized and this charge, along with its video proof, was given up a week from now, insinuating her as a cheat. This may have been something that she could have never shaken off, something that would have ruined her reputation for a long time. Again, I have no problem with the original penalty in spite of the fact that they ALL do it regularly to get their ball out of indentations. It stands to reason that, in many cases, it’s an indentation that causes the ball to finally come to rest. They mark them specifically to make sure that the ball isn’t going to pop up when they hit that 18-incher. She took it a little too far in this instance but the fact that none of her playing partners had a problem with it tells us that they all do it, regularly, especially on a Sunday afternoon after the entire field has been stomping around the hole. Remember, she’s allowed to repair pitch marks. She could have and maybe should have taken the time to repair the mark and put the ball back on the correct spot …..but does anyone do that? Not very often. She certainly did not gain any advantage by moving her ball. If there was a spike mark in her line though, it would have been an entirely different story. She’d probably have been disqualified for the infraction.

  12. The very reason that pros mark these short putts is to ensure that they’re not sitting in an indentation. Everyone knows that. Lexi took it to the extreme and did move the ball more than the usual cm that most of them do numerous times per round. It’s one of those overlooked conventions of the pro game. She repositioned her ball an inch from the original position. She should have been given the penalty. She may well have been accused of this weeks from now and it probably would have been a black mark on her reputation, sort of like Mark O’Meara’s. He had been accused of doing this habitually by several playing partners over the years. The part that I believe is unfair is the additional two stroke penalty, for reasons repeated here ad nauseam. No more call in TV referees! Let the playing partners and referees handle it….done deal/last word.

  13. No player, marker, observer or Rules Official had a problem with Lexi Thompson’s third round until that television viewer called in. Unless a possible rules infringement is reported by either of the aforementioned persons, members of the viewing public have no say in the officiating of the game being played. Also, unless any player is informed of a potential rules infringement immediately and is allowed to view and discuss any television footage of the possible infringement – before their card is signed – no penalty may retrospectively be applied, even if an infringement did occur and would have resulted in a penalty being applied.

  14. Only the players, caddies, and any rules official inside the ropes should be able to call a penalty. Any others may be bias against a player and may be watching more closely to get them caught or just to distract them. No tv reviews …no calling other officials. Resolve the issue then and there and live w/the result -No revisiting after that. This is pretty much how it is done for any golf not on TV.

    If a professional is caught breaking a rule and or cheating after the fact because of video then you fine and/or suspend them. Amateur’s would get suspended.

    Cheating requires knowledge of the rule and knowingly breaking it. I realize a rule was broken but moving the ball about ½ inch gave her no advantage on a 1 foot putt. If you believe she was cheating than it is unlikely the first time she has done this move and video of past situations would reveal that this is something she does from time to time.

  15. Maybe if we all email in during the next tournament stating so-and-so possibly committed an infraction, they would be so overwhelmed they would just stop investigating email accusations.

  16. The interesting thing is who would be watching the 3rd day while watching the final round??? Either the person calling it in played the LPGA or the LPGA played Lexi and got the winner they wanted that would increase revenues where they have a higher chance of generating more interest and sponsorship. The winner won of her own merit and at least it went to a play-off …

  17. Wouldn’t it have been great if Ryu had conceded the first playoff hole on the tee box? That sure would’ve stuck it to the LPGA for their stupid ruling.

    If her player-competitors had seen it and called it, fine. Two strokes. But that didn’t happen, so it’s four strokes? Insane.

  18. Yes, she committed a penalty. But in most sports, lots of penalties go un-called.

    In golf, players are supposed to police themselves. Second, each player’s player-competitors (the others in his/her group) are tasked with protecting the field. Thus, if they see something untoward, it’s their responsibility to call it out. Finally, the presence of rules officials should close out this deal. So what gives with TV?

    Ever since Stadler was called for building a stance after a viewer called into the San Diego Open, it’s been open season for this nonsense. It has to stop. In this case, there was no material advantage gained on the field of play. The play was long over–it wasn’t even discovered until the next day. There’s no evidence that Thompson did it on purpose–it wasn’t cheating. One the round is finished it should be just that: finished. And fans should have absolutely nothing to say or do about the matter. None.

  19. Half a ball to the left of the original spot; that is not a mistake by any means. Just weird.
    Maybe marking from the side instead of being right behind it altered her perspective but to me it looks like she did it on purpose, maybe the ball was in a small dimp and she didn’t fancy it?.. Shame, it was a walkaway victory the way she was playing.

  20. How in the world do officials allow fans to call in on infractions the may see on tv. If I were Lexi in the future in the scoring tents before she signs her scorecard I would demand she tell them she will not sign unless she waits until any possible viewers have called in any concerns. Whenever anyone from now on calls in they should politely tell them “Thanks for your input but we’re not allowing any calls to change the outcome. Now why don’t you get a @$&&$@@ life!!”

  21. Can’t let these “coach potato” rules officials decide the outcome of these events anymore.

    The tours have rules officials – maybe they should start following and monitoring groups more closely.

    Golf is a sport of honor but lots of pro’s are cheating out there at every event. They improve their lies, mark the ball incorrectly, etc.

    They guys are in it for the money and integrity is a thing of the past for a lot of these guys.

  22. Replacing the ball in the ‘EXACT SPOT’ where the ball was lifted means precisely that. However, during every LPGA, PGA and Euro tournament there is not a single player that replaces the ball in the ‘EXACT SPOT’ from where it was lifted it. Is 1 centimeter close enough? How about 1/4 centimeter – is that close enough? Probably every player breaks this rule a half dozen times each tournament!

    • Absolutely. It isn’t possible to replace the ball identically to how it was before it was lifted. Either don’t let them lift it at all, or be reasonable with penalties. Had she moved her marker to clear a path for another putter then forgot to return the marker, sure, give her a penalty. Had she marked in front of the ball then moved the ball to the other side of the marker to get 2 inches closer, sure give her a penalty. But, replacing the ball 45 degrees further around the marker no closer to hole (or a fraction of an inch at most) is hardly deserving of any penalty.

    • When I play for fun with buddies we allow moving the ball a little to get away from little imperfections in the green. It’s cheating but we’re all cool with it. I’m not saying she did that, but it looked like what our weekend foursome does.

      Still think 4 stokes is ridiculous, yes it’s the rules, but the rules should change. This retroactive nonsense has to stop. More ridiculous is this call in nonsense.

  23. Why is the LPGA/tournament committee letting an outside agency determine the winner of their tournament?

    That’s A LOT of power to give up to someone who’s not involved in the event, don’t you think?

  24. No issues with the penalty, but I am pretty sick of the camera and viewers calling on these things. It’d be great with all these self righteous golfers to have them followed around on the golf course with a camera and replay all their mistakes.

  25. Ryu could have put an end to this by clearly mismarking the ball on the green and getting a 2 stroke penalty, ceding the tournament to Lexi. Not a fan of Ryu any longer. She could have made a farce of these rules – which should have been done. Make a statement.

    I know, rules are rules, but isn’t there a common sense rule? Certainly, we must have a finish of round rule — when all players have finished the round, the time for penalties cease. And the audience wearing the zebra stripes? Not having this rule yesterday affects the entire final round, the order of playing, psychology, tension, etc.

  26. and if anything comes out of this i hope it puts an end to pros marking tap in putts, or at the very least the networks stop televising these putts. move on to others hitting shots. we don’t want to see tap ins

  27. i’m fine if the officials call a penalty, but if its not caught until the day after….and especially by a viewer call in…that beyond stupid. this rule doesn’t protect the field, because not every person is having their pre putt routine caught on camera.

  28. I understand the rules, but her initial infraction was so minor that nobody noticed aside from one television viewer with access to HD footage. I’m sure this sort of minor mistake happens regularly, and isn’t noticed or caught 99% of the time.

    I also understand the rule about another 2-stroke penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard, but it just seems egregious at that point.

  29. Lexi did not lose the LPGA stole the ANA Championship from her.

    Fans should not be allowed to call in to rules officials of any sport and effect the outcome of any event.

      • What the heck was she thinking?!? It was a pretty sizable displacement from her original position. Are pros always this cavalier about replacing their marked balls?

        It’s unfortunate how it all played out, but she should of penalized herself, and she still would of won!

    • Yes you have a point but…… Unless you cover ALL the contestants for every shot you are unfairly treating one person. If you can tell me how many other’s have done the same thing during a tournament (you can’t) or even say how many other contestants HAVEN’T done the same thing during a tournament (you can’t) Then you are selectively enforcing those who are 1-either in contention and being covered closely or 2-you are selectively enforcing those who are the faces of the LPGA who for television (and the LPGA’s benefit, it’s called ratings) over those who are not the most popular on tour. I agree that yes it was a penalty but those who have nothing better to do but proclaim they are protecting the field by emailing or calling in. Please leave that to the professional tour staff to enforce, there is no room for armchair golfers, quarterbacks, power forwards, or goaltenders to don their black and white striped shirts and report in. Go outside and play 18 or 9

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