I’ve watched the clip of Lexi Thompson marking a golf ball and replacing it about 1,000 times now. Obviously no one knows her intent except her — maybe it was just complete negligence — but she 100 percent moved the position of her golf ball in relation to her coin. It couldn’t be more cut and dry than that. So, file this under super unpopular opinions, but I believe she deserved to be penalized.
I’m not saying Thompson did this on purpose, but there are ways in golf to skirt the rules in order to give yourself an advantage. Moving a golf ball on the green, for whatever reason, is somewhere at the top of that list. Just because an act of bending the rules isn’t blatant doesn’t make it any more right.
What if, instead of moving a ball on the green, there was video that showed she fluffed a lie in the rough on Saturday and she got called out? I’ll go out on a limb and say the general public wouldn’t have her back in that circumstance.
Also, it’s no surprise that Tiger Woods came to her defense on Twitter. He himself was the victim of very similar circumstances in 2013 when he was caught on camera disobeying the rules of golf, and fans called him on it. I understand that Woods and Thompson, given their positions in the game, are under more scrutiny because they’re on television more often than other players, but what’s so wrong about getting the rules right?
People love to make comparisons to other sports, too.
“This is like a fan calling into Major League Baseball about a pitch an umpire got wrong and them changing the result of the game the next day.”
To that I say, well, not really.
In most any other sports, there’s an objective referee who’s making judgement calls based on what they see in real time. In certain circumstances, officials can review replays to get the call right. There’s no rule against an umpire getting a judgement call wrong. Baseball doesn’t defer to fans on strikes and balls, just like football doesn’t look to fans to correct a catch that was ruled a drop.
In golf, however, the rules permit fans to call in if they believe the rules were broken. The governing bodies allow it. And you know what… with so many moving parts on a golf course, maybe this is for the best. Other sports are confined to an arena or a court or a stadium where things can be controlled. In golf, it’s almost impossible for rules officials to keep an eye on every single player in a tournament at a given time, or review every single thing that happened on a telecast. By allowing fans to call in about wrongdoings, it increases the odds that every player is playing by the rules. Isn’t that what everyone wants?
The best solution I can come up with is to implement some kind of time-sensitive rule where if a penalty isn’t called by midnight of that day, then no penalty can be called by an outside force and the player can only call it on themselves. I agree it’s not fair for Thompson or any player to have to deal with a penalty from the day before, especially while they’re on the course competing for majors and paychecks. In cases such as this one, I also don’t think a player should be subjected to a penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard since they were unaware of wrongdoing at the time.
But the rules of golf, until 2018 at least, will never allow golfers to knowingly or unknowingly mark their golf ball on the green and then replace it in a different location. Thompson incurred a penalty for her actions, and I believe it was the right call.