The Lexi Thompson Controversy:  I’m stunned

The Lexi Thompson controversy is shocking to me.

It was a pretty big golf story so I’m guessing you heard about it:  after marking her ball, Thompson replaced it in a different spot.  The LPGA was alerted to the infraction by a TV viewer a day after it happened.  After they reviewed the video tape, they assessed a heavy penalty which cost Thompson the coveted championship.

I was at the course when the news broke.  Fans were outraged at LPGA Rules officials.  People were screaming, “They screwed her,” and “They stole this from her!”   I, too, was upset, because I assumed Thompson had replaced her ball just a blade of grass from the right spot and some viewer, some trigonometry buff using signs and cosigns, had calculated a 1/100th of an inch breach.

As Warner Wolf used to say… let’s go to the video tape:  Click here

It’s stunning to me!  First-off , I’d assumed she had marked her ball and then waited for others to play before replacing it – maybe forgetting how she marked it.   But noooooooooo, the entire process was done in one action.  She marks the ball, picks it up, then immediately replaces it to the left.

I’d also assumed she missed the correct spot by a blade of grass, but noooooooooo again – it was half a ball-length.  Look, this isn’t Hedwig’s Angry Inch, but for a professional golfer to misplace her ball by this much is shocking.

And the real stunner is she only lifted the ball an inch off the ground!  There’s no way she “accidentally” moved her ball to the side almost as much as she picked it up off the ground, is there?

There are only two possible reasons why she did this:  1) She cheated – she wanted to avoid some kind of imperfection on the green so she moved her ball.  2)  She didn’t know the rule.

Both of these scenarios are hard for me to believe.  She seems like a decent kid, so I’m having a hard time believing she did this intentionally.  But how does a professional golfer not know this rule?  It’s like a basketball player forgetting he has to dribble.    Please tell me what you think!

2017-07-08T11:38:51+00:00

18 Comments

  1. m benado May 4, 2017 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    i agree with the summary of the infraction——–HOWEVER——if this infraction was not caught at the time it occured, there should be , with no doubt—–NO penalty……the fact that someone can call in is absurd…….mb

  2. Ronnie Rubin May 4, 2017 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Whether it was intentional or not, it should not be called the next day. If the other golfers, markers, etc. didn’t see it with their own eyes, then so be it. The only golfers being scrutinized by TV viewers are the few that are on TV. That should not be allowed. If it was called when it happened it would have been a 2 stroke penalty, not 4 strokes. I don’t agree with the way this was handled.

    • Patty Ellis May 4, 2017 at 7:00 pm - Reply

      Totally agree Robin. I’m so happy the LPGA created a new rule so this won’t happen again.

  3. Alan Specht May 4, 2017 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Patty…I took so much heat for making these exact points the day after it happened, that I figured I was just an overly careful stickler golfer and i should just drop it…..the video doesn’t show why she marked so oddly so tough to label the act. …..Google “Chella Choi 2014 Canadian Open” to see she had a reason to mark the ball in similar fashion

    • Patty Ellis May 4, 2017 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      This is what’s so shocking to me, Alan! There doesn’t seem to be a reason why she did it. If she were old, I’d say senior moment, but she’s like 20.

  4. Joy Passlacqua May 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Patty,
    I don’t like the fact that callers can call in the next day, long after the round is over, and the officials go back and impose a 4 stroke penalty!! She gets two strokes for the infraction and two more for signing a wrong scorecard. She had no idea at the time she was signing that card that there may even be an issue. I think this is outrageous and extremely unfair to Lexi or any other player. This is the very reason why the USGA and R&A need to take a good look at many of the rules that create an unfair situation for the players. And, from my understanding, they will be taking a look at many of the rules that contribute to slow play. I am happy that there will be an extensive review of some of these rules and hopefully some positive changes will be in our future. Let’s keep improving the game of golf and keep it moving forward. I think this can be done without compromising the love and the integrity of the game.

    • Patty Ellis May 5, 2017 at 5:21 pm - Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment, Joy. The LPGA instituted a rule that limits the use of video tape, but I wish they’d go further and “just say no” to TV viewers calling in. Could you imagine viewers being able to get Basketball refs to call fouls?

  5. Steve Stein Cushman May 4, 2017 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    I think you’re discounting human error way too much. People make unthinking mistakes all the time. Silly, stupid mistakes where their mind wanders just a bit. That doesn’t mean it’s not an infraction, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that she either cheated or didn’t know the rule.

    • Patty Ellis May 5, 2017 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Very true, Steve, human error can’t be ruled out. I just find it tougher to believe it in this case because the marking and replacing happen all in the same movement – she literally picks up the ball to her left. But I’m hoping it was just that… human error.

  6. Denise Leto May 4, 2017 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    HI Patty, GREAT to have you back! I have probably played 1/1000 of the rounds that Lexi has played, to make that much movement in the replacement of the ball seems intentional. Like Michelson said “I know a number of guys on (the PGA Tour) that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it, They will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark, and this is an intentional way to get it out of any type of impression and so forth and I think that kind of stuff needs to stop”.

    That being said I think this penalty needs to be called by the officials at the time, so I am happy with the changes they have made since this happened.

    • Patty Ellis May 5, 2017 at 5:18 pm - Reply

      Hey Denise, great to be back! I read that article, I bet they won’t do that anymore!

  7. jen May 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    If you go back and watch Lexi that Sunday mark her ball even after they called this penalty, she seems to always mark the ball off to the side … someone on her team should give her a lesson … because it seems to be a habit. I haven’t watched her play since to see what she’s doing and if she’s more careful, but come on. I really hate when people call in and try to referee golf from their recliner!

    • Patty Ellis May 10, 2017 at 3:03 pm - Reply

      Very interesting!! Maybe she just had a brain lapse. I have them all the time, but I’m 60! I ruled it out because she’s so young.

  8. Teri May 9, 2017 at 9:21 am - Reply

    You make a compelling argument, Miss Rules Chair. But, I come down on the side of giving Lexi a 2 stroke penalty versus 4. A tv viewer calling it in the day after doesn’t sit right with me. We play sports in real time. Each golf pairing has a scorer walking with them. There is also the person holding the score board walking with them. For goodness sake, we have to do some things in real time, don’t we? But it was exciting to be in the desert during this controversy and to be texting you with what was breaking on tv while you were on the course hearing it unfold. Just another crazy day on the golf course.

    • Patty Ellis May 10, 2017 at 3:01 pm - Reply

      I TOTALLY AGREE! It’s absurd that anyone can call in and have an effect on the outcome of a tournament. I didn’t address it because the LPGA had already installed a new rule before I posted. Gotta post faster! LOL

  9. Alex Depaul May 19, 2017 at 8:13 am - Reply

    To those who think this was an accident, she has done this little trick before. Here are 2 examples:

    https://youtu.be/0f4VniG19K8

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0VhHpGinrU

    she moves her ball almost 2 INCHES in the first video. She has done this HUNDREDS of times probably

  10. Steve Smith June 11, 2017 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Dear Patty,

    There is a very clever fellow out here in the desert who belongs to the same club as me, The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta. His name is Tom Loss, but all his friends call him Total. He was a dentist, but a rules guru and convinced CBS that they needed a rules guy on their team to instantly supply the commentators with the true rule and consequences so they didn’t sound stupid. He did this for a few years and just retired from it this year. He said to me that a lot of the gals take these kinds of liberties and that it is well known and just accepted.

    I agree with you that she could not be that clueless to have marked her ball the way she did unconsciously. I give you credit for questioning this situation rather than falling in line with all the other folks who have elevated her to heroine status.

    Have a great summer and keep up the fun blog!

    Regards,
    Steve Smith
    PS. Is there a prize for “World’s Ugliest Golf Course?” I think you found it in Florida.

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