American LPGA golfer, Lexi Thompson received a crushing four-stroke penalty on the final day of the ANA Inspiration tournament, after a viewer emailed officials over a ball placement violation Thompson had performed in the day before.
Incredibly, the penalty wasn’t handed down until the 13th hole on the final day’s play, with Thompson holding a three-stroke lead.
After Thompson was confronted by officials with the penalty, she loudly remarked, “Is this a joke?
“This is ridiculous,” Thompson exclaimed.
The subsequent penalty erased Thompson’s 3-shot lead, a lead she never recovered over the final 6 holes. To Thompson’s exceptional credit, she did nail three birdies over the final round to take eventual champion, So Yeon Ryu, to a playoff hole. However, Ryu nailed a brilliant birdie on the first playoff to secure her first major title.
The American was clearly distraught in the aftermath of the final round, but vowed to return for the better, “Every day is a learning process,I wasn’t expecting what happened today, but … it happens, and I’ll learn from it and hopefully do better,” Thompson said.
Sue Witters, the LPGA Rules Officials who handed down the ruling, said she took no pleasure in enforcing the penalty.
I can’t go to bed tonight knowing I let a rule slide,” Witters said. “It’s a hard thing to do, and it made me sick, to be honest with you.”
Thompson was penalised a total of four strokes, 2 shots for the incorrect ball placement, and 2 shots for the subsequent incorrect scorecard, that came as a result of the penalty not being recorded on the previous day’s scorecard. Essentially, she was punished for the officials failing to penalise her at the time of the infringement.
Many commentators and other players have been highly critical of the penalty that was handed out, at such a critical time, over a day after the minor infringement.
Tweeting from home, Tiger Woods was critical of the influence that a fan viewing the tournament online could have on its outcome, “Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes. Let’s go @Lexi, win this thing anyway,” Woods tweeted.
Speaking to ESPN at Augusta ahead of this weeks Masters, Brandt Snedeker had his say.
“As long as you’ve got people calling and putting their 2 cents in on rulings, we’re going to have issues like this arise,” Snedeker said.
“There was no intent there to do anything wrong. Trying to rush to get out of the way. It just boggles my mind that there was a 4-shot penalty with six holes to go. It boggles my mind. I don’t think (it was) the right thing to do. I’ve never seen that before,” he added.
Fellow pros, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka were also both critical of the way the situation played out, “Once you’ve signed your scorecard, or the round is over, it should be done,” Koepka said.
Lost amongst the feelings of disappointment and frustration for Thompson is the deserving recognition of the tournament’s winner, So Yeon Ryu. Even in victory, Ryu was circumspect and almost apologetic about the circumstances of her thrilling victory. Unfortunately for the South Korean, the majority of media attention was focused upon the American, although understandable, Ryu deserves ardent praise for her win and the grace and modesty in which she received it.