The other evening, under the big tent at Hooters, I talked cigars with some gentlemen from Tampa. On one of the 300 or so big TeeVee screens the news lingered over Lexi Thompson’s tragic loss at the ANA Inspiration.
The stain that will always hang over this tournament is that for the third time in less than a year, one of golf’s major championships was marred by a rules situation that could have been avoided. This time, Thompson was the victim. It cost her a second title at the ANA, for moving her ball less than an inch.
Someone who apparently has little going on in their life sent an email to the LPGA fan website during Sunday’s final round, pointing out that Thompson had misplaced her marked ball on No. 17 in Saturday’s third round.
That email arrived as Thompson and Suzann Pettersen were on No. 9 on Sunday, playing in the final twosome of the day. Two rules officials went to the TV compound to study the tape and as Thompson walked off No. 12 green with a two-stroke lead, she was notified she’d been penalized four strokes.
Lexi lost as a result. Visibly shaken, she told an official, “that’s just ridiculous”. Maybe it was though I do not know the rules involved. Others agreed with her. Tiger Woods tweeted: “Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes. Let’s go @Lexi, win this thing anyway.”
ESPN described Tiger as another “victim” of the same scenario with a similar rule at the 2013 Masters. If I recall correctly, Tiger’s error was more egregious, an over-liberal placement drop. At the time some speculated he could have been disqualified.
Again, I don’t know the rules exactly. However, when it comes to ball placement I imagine they call for exactness and no moving, intentional or accidental. If this creates victims (and what doesn’t), then that’s for others to call. Things used to be different.
Another champion once succumbed to a tournament loss for nearly the exact same reason as Lexi. Bobby Jones lost the 1925 U.S. Open due to a one-stroke penalty. At some point Jones inadvertently moved his ball ever so slightly. It seems the same rules applied then as now.
The differences are several. In 1925 there was no risk of television interference. No viewers at home saw anything. In fact, no one saw anything period. Jones called the penalty on himself. “Praised for his classy move, Jones quipped, ‘You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.'”
Jones was no robber. Nor a victim. Things change.
All caught up in the rules of victimhood…
The good news in Augusta is that the John Daly just finally rolled up to Hooters yesterday. Rules or not, all is once again right.
Big John’s Big Bus.