Not a Lexi thing

The list of what’s wrong with TV viewers calling in potential rules violations on professional golfers is rather extensive.

It came to light again Sunday when someone with nothing better to do e-mailed the LPGA and said that Lexi Thompson allegedly did something wrong the previous day.

The. Previous. Day.

So, rules officials scrambled to find the tape. They reviewed it and saw that Thompson did not replace her ball in the exact same place after she marked what looked like a one-foot putt.

The ball was moved maybe a half-inch.

Maybe.

If that.

So, rules officials slapped a two-shot penalty for playing from a wrong place and then another two for signing an incorrect scorecard.

A three-shot lead now became a one-shot deficit.

Thompson eventually took a one-shot lead, lost it with an eventual bogey, birdied 18 to get into a playoff and lost.

She showed nothing but class when being interviewed and then spent time signing autographs for kids.

I would guess Thompson has gained a lot of fans because of the mess.

The USGA, PGA Tour and LPGA have to end allowing viewers to call or e-mail possible rules violations.

That is why you have one or more fellow competitors. They are there to protect the field.

If Thompson had done the same thing on the third green Thursday, no one knows and we move on.

No TVs and no video evidence.

If she had done it on the eighth hole Friday of her back nine and out of television view, no one knows and we move on.

If she had done it being 7-under par at some time Saturday and not in the view of television, no one knows and we move one.

Only a certain number of players on any of the tours are subject to viewers calling in for what they might have seen on television and that’s the problem.

It is unequitable to the entire field.

Certain players cannot be subject to something the entire field isn’t subject to.

Players who are playing well that week are scrutinized to a degree other players are not.

Sunday at Augusta, no will care about the person tied for 32nd after Saturday, but every shot will be shown of the leader(s) unless they fall out of contention.

So, those within earshot of the lead come Sunday will be on TV and have everything they do scrutinized.

The guy who is tied for 32nd and shoots 69 to move to 29th will not have a shot aired — more than likely. And, if shots are aired, it won’t be many.

Unless, of course, that person is looking at shooting 62, 63 or 64 — then, hello TV viewers.

Phil Mickelson came out Tuesday and said that PGA Tour players have been “loose” with how they have marked and put the ball back into play.

“So rather than address that specific instance, what I would say is this: I know a number of guys on tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it. I mean, 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,” Mickelson said in a golfdigest.com story written by Alex Myers. “But I think it should be handled within the tour. I think that the tour should go to those players and say, look, we’ve noticed you’ve been a little lax in how precise you’ve been in marking the ball. We’d like you to be a little bit better at it — and see if that doesn’t just kind of fix the thing.”

The rule in golf is that nothing can be done after the close of competition.

So, if that same viewer sends the e-mail Monday, nothing happens because the tournament is over.

That brings to light — why is something 24 hours old able to be reviewed?

Because, well, it’s allowed — and that is a terrible answer.

It shouldn’t be.

The close of a round is the close of a round and that’s it.

PGA Tour player Hunter Mahan tweeted, “Signing of the scorecard and turning it in means nothing anymore.”

He’s right.

The fact that she got slapped an extra two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard is also a slap to the face of common sense.

“Once the round is over, and the scorecard is signed, the day is over,” Jack Nicklaus said Tuesday in an Associated Press story by Doug Ferguson. “That’s my opinion.”

Not so long ago, signing an incorrect scorecard meant disqualification.

Imagine that scene Sunday.

“Hi, Lexi. We have a cart to take you back to the clubhouse.”

As much as I agree with Nicklaus, the senior director of rules for the USGA, Thomas Pagel, doesn’t.

“The challenge there is you’re not handing out a trophy or money after each round,” Pagel said in the AP story. “What you’ve done is put the committee in a position where it becomes known after the fact and you can’t act. You could have a player who breached a rule, didn’t include it on the scorecard and there’s no penalty. And the day before, another player breached the same rule and had it included on the scorecard. How is that fair?”

But, how is it fair that a viewer from Anywhere, U.S.A., can watch a video and send an e-mail and impact a huge event?

Agreed, if Thompson had put the ball back exactly as she had picked it up, this wouldn’t be an issue.

I am with everyone there.

But, the bigger story here is that an outside agency — a viewer — had an impact on a major championship.

That practice has to stop.

But, after being a golf pro for 17 years, common sense doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with the game.

That is another reason why the USGA is completely revamping the rules of golf.

You can ask is, “Why is a Tour professional marking a one-foot putt?”

Good question.

But, they are a creature of habit and each shot missed costs them something — a win, a spot on the Ryder Cup or Solheim Cups teams and, of course, money.

Thompson had no intent in putting the ball back in a different place and said more than once she doesn’t even remember doing so.

I understand rules are rules. I get that.

Time for the professional players on all tours to step up and put pressure on the USGA, PGA Tour, LPGA and the R&A to end this pathetic opportunity for viewers.

That practice has to end.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. He can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com and followed on Twitter @HSDTsports).

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