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Worst Call in Pro Golf?


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This was undoubtedly covered back when it happened, but I was listening to PGA Tour radio yesterday while driving to our PNW Meet-up and they were discussing the 4 stroke penalty Lexi Thompson incurred at the 2017 ANA. I really don't remember much about this and the specific details.  She "misplaced" a ball to her ball mark on the green and a television viewer calls it in. (side note; who in the world looks at this detail while watching golf?). They assess the penalty the next day during the final round...after she had just finished the 12th hole and had a 4 shot lead.

In my mind, I'm thinking the situation where she moved her mark out of another players line and forgot to go back to that spot... nope.  We're talking the distance of a piece of Cheerio cereal. 2 strokes for the misplace and 2 more for the incorrect scorecard.  Ridiculous IMO. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that a good many balls do not go down in the exact location they were picked up from.  So if we're going to get this technical and precise, it should be applied uniformly.  If this level of scrutiny was applied to every replaced ball, I'll bet a handful of penalties would be doled out at every event.

 If this isn't one of the worst calls in pro golf, I'd like to know what you think is.

 

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Agree with this. All the penalties involving viewer phone in after the fact were suspect and super annoying to me. Either penalize at the moment or not at all.

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It was absolutely the correct call to penalize her and something Lexi should learn from! What was the purpose for moving the ball?  To miss an imperfection in the green? Get her ball out of a slight depression in the green? To use something on the green as an alignment aid on her intended line? Improve her intended line? It's likely something she's been doing her entire life without even realizing she's doing it for whatever reason.  But it's a penalty and she should be penalized for it! 

My question is, why does Patrick Reed get blown up for similar actions while Lexi gets defended? This wasn't her only rules snafu!!!  She's had several!!!

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In my mind a bad call is a rules infraction that was committed but wasn’t assessed the appropriate penalty.   IMO, this was not a bad call, it was a rules infraction and the appropriate penalty was applied base on the rules of golf.   
 

hoefully this doesn’t turn into an I don’ agree with this rule so it shouldn’t have been a penalty type thread….

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Posted (edited)

I agree completely with @sixcat, she clearly replaced her ball almost an inch away from its original location, she deserved the penalty for doing so.  But when we bring this particular incident back up, we should also recognize that changes were made to the RoG since that time.  First, viewer call-ins are no longer  accepted, although the various Tours supposedly have officials who watch the video feeds so that obvious infractions don't go unnoticed.  Second, the second two-stroke penalty, for (unknowingly) signing an incorrect scorecard has been eliminated from the current Rules.  The Rule have also changed, so that infractions must be able to be seen with the naked eye, but this mis-placement wasn't microscopic, it was very noticeable.

So what happens now if the same thing happens?  If the Tour officials are doing their job, the mis-placement of the ball is noticed, and Lexi is informed of it before she signs her scorecard, so she gets it right, she applies the appropriate two-stroke penalty.  And was Lexi a "victim" at the time this happened?  Yes, a victim of her own carelessness, or perhaps of her choice to try to gain a small advantage, as noted by @sixcat.

Edited by DaveP043
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8 minutes ago, cnosil said:

hoefully this doesn’t turn into an I don’ agree with this rule so it shouldn’t have been a penalty type thread….

I thought about that after I posted.  I should not have mentioned Reed.  The thread is virtually guaranteed to fly off the rails now!!!

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14 minutes ago, cnosil said:

IMO, this was not a bad call, it was a rules infraction and the appropriate penalty was applied base on the rules of golf.

In my view, the officials get dang near every single call correct under the Rules in effect at the time.  The one that I can remember disagreeing with was Abraham Ancer being penalized for touching the sand during his backswing in a bunker at the Masters this year.  I just looked at the video again, and I'm leaning towards agreeing with the penalty.  I'm certain that Ancer couldn't see or feel the infraction, as it was underneath he club, but the amount of disturbance was large enough to be visible.  Note, it doesn't have to be visible to the player at the moment, it just has to be large enough to be visible.  

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I agree with those saying this was a valid penalty. She mismarked her ball and did it in a very odd way that suggests it could have been intentional. Even if not, it was so sloppy it warranted the penalty. I do agree that allowing the wrong scorecard to be corrected so to not double the penalty is a good change.

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Couple things to note. I do remember this and agree with the 2 strokes as it is the rule. Although I thought they were not taking called in infractions anymore? Or was this part of what started them looking into it and whether they would considered that in part because of this? Again I don't remember all the timing, but I do recall this penalty. 

What I don't like is the snowball penalty of signing the wrong scorecard because a penalty had not yet been enforced or given. That I don't agree with. 

Finally Hovland was assessed this same penalty earlier this year after his mom called him out for it and because of this he missed the cut, it wasn't as though he did it shadily it was I believe marking the ball and simply forgetting to move it back. 

What is important is the rules should be applied as they are written and regardless of intent of the player, be handed out in a appropriate manner. That is my only thing with Lexi's that I am not a fan of as I said before. I do not like the wrong scorecard penalty as of course she would have signed correctly had the penalty been given before or at the completion of her round and not following the end of the day.

 

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27 minutes ago, Apolloshowl said:

Couple things to note. I do remember this and agree with the 2 strokes as it is the rule. Although I thought they were not taking called in infractions anymore? Or was this part of what started them looking into it and whether they would considered that in part because of this? Again I don't remember all the timing, but I do recall this penalty. 

What I don't like is the snowball penalty of signing the wrong scorecard because a penalty had not yet been enforced or given. That I don't agree with. 

Finally Hovland was assessed this same penalty earlier this year after his mom called him out for it and because of this he missed the cut, it wasn't as though he did it shadily it was I believe marking the ball and simply forgetting to move it back. 

What is important is the rules should be applied as they are written and regardless of intent of the player, be handed out in a appropriate manner. That is my only thing with Lexi's that I am not a fan of as I said before. I do not like the wrong scorecard penalty as of course she would have signed correctly had the penalty been given before or at the completion of her round and not following the end of the day.

 

The incident was in 2017, they've changed policy about viewer call-ins since then.  I have a feeling that this incident, and a few others, was probably the impetus for the change.

Its probably appropriate to mention that the "wrong scorecard" penalty of 2 strokes was substantially less punitive than the previous rule, which was DQ.  But even that penalty has since eliminated for cases where the scorecard error was based on penalties the player was unaware of at the time.  To some extent, the wrong scorecard penalty would have served as a deterrent, so a player would own up to a penalty that might (or might not) have gone unnoticed by other players and officials.  As it is now, a less-than-honest player loses nothing by trying to pretend ignorance and turn in the score without the penalty, the worst that can happen is that he gets only the penalty that he deserves.  

I think its also fair to say that Lexi would have turned in a correct scorecard if she hadn't moved her ball to the side when she replaced it.  

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47 minutes ago, Apolloshowl said:

Couple things to note. I do remember this and agree with the 2 strokes as it is the rule. Although I thought they were not taking called in infractions anymore? Or was this part of what started them looking into it and whether they would considered that in part because of this? Again I don't remember all the timing, but I do recall this penalty. 

What I don't like is the snowball penalty of signing the wrong scorecard because a penalty had not yet been enforced or given. That I don't agree with. 

Finally Hovland was assessed this same penalty earlier this year after his mom called him out for it and because of this he missed the cut, it wasn't as though he did it shadily it was I believe marking the ball and simply forgetting to move it back. 

What is important is the rules should be applied as they are written and regardless of intent of the player, be handed out in a appropriate manner. That is my only thing with Lexi's that I am not a fan of as I said before. I do not like the wrong scorecard penalty as of course she would have signed correctly had the penalty been given before or at the completion of her round and not following the end of the day.

 

A couple of areas to clarify here. 

First, not allowing called in evidence of a rules infraction didn't take effect until some time after Lexi's snafu at the ANA. I would also point out, the situation at the ANA was NOT her only rules gaffe resulting in penalty.  You can find a litany of YouTube videos where she was penalized for very similar infractions.

Second, Mrs. Hovland called Viktor, who abruptly called the Tour and assessed the penalty on himself resulting in the missed cut.  Very different situation than a random viewer calling Tour HQ.

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Just now, sixcat said:

A couple of areas to clarify here. 

First, not allowing called in evidence of a rules infraction didn't take effect until some time after Lexi's snafu at the ANA. I would also point out, the situation at the ANA was NOT her only rules gaffe resulting in penalty.  You can find a litany of YouTube videos where she was penalized for very similar infractions.

Second, Mrs. Hovland called Viktor, who abruptly called the Tour and assessed the penalty on himself resulting in the missed cut.  Very different situation than a random viewer calling Tour HQ.

Appreciate the clarification for called in evidence, I thought it was around that time, but clearly I was wrong. Was it when DJ's ball moved on the green? That seems to ring a bell... anyway.

I can honestly say I do not watch enough golf (and even less LPGA sadly) to say how many times Lexi has done that or how many times she has been penalized for such infractions. I won't pretend to be a expert in that area as there are several other members such as yourself who have watched more or know more specific occasions where this has happened.

My point with bringing up Hovland was simply that I recalled the same penalty being given out this year and we have an example of it being applied on tour recently to reference back (I haven't heard of it happening all too often is all). I am by no means saying their intent was the same (clearly it was not as Hovland seems pretty stand up in character), as it does seem in the video the ball is moved to a more advantageous position. 
 

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8 minutes ago, Apolloshowl said:

Was it when DJ's ball moved on the green? That seems to ring a bell... anyway.

DJ was 2016 at Oakmont, and was probably another factor in changing the rules.

I just did a quick search, and found two more instances where Lexi had infractions.  Both were semi-understandable, but also completely preventable.  In one, she took advantage of preferred lies when in an adjacent fairway, not realizing that relief was only allowed in her own fairway under the local rules.  The other, she moved a temporary sign, even though the Local Rules classified them as Temporary Immovable Obstructions.  In each case, her ignorance of the local rules cost her strokes.  And I may be wrong, but I've never heard her say "I screwed up", she always seems to talk about "what happened to me".  

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@fixyurdivot Should Lexi have been penalized for replacing her ball in the incorrect spot...Absolutely!  I realize that the rules have changed since this happened, but how/when the officials decided to tell her about the penalties, IMO was not the right time...it's not like her final round scorecard would reflect those penalties.  I assume their reasoning for the timing would be to let her know that she's no longer in the lead.  Another thing that's interesting is that she marked it at all...I mean, if she had marked it and thrown it to her caddie for cleaning, or let the other players putt-out, then no one would have ever known...probably anyway.

Something else that I think about when I read these comments, is how many tournaments I've played in, with people that don't know the rules (not to say I know everything, because I don't).  But there are so many regular Joe's out there that play in league, and mark their ball incorrectly on every hole...I've even had times where I've been replacing my ball and when I go to pull the marker away it rolls backwards into an indention on the green.  I try to respectfully let them know what they've done wrong, but even then it's sometime a tricky situation...I mean it can really mess with your head if you do or don't say something...ok, mine anyway. 

Here's a video from Mark Crossfield in response to some twitter comments about Lexi's penalty:

 

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1 hour ago, Apolloshowl said:

Appreciate the clarification for called in evidence, I thought it was around that time, but clearly I was wrong. Was it when DJ's ball moved on the green? That seems to ring a bell... anyway.

I can honestly say I do not watch enough golf (and even less LPGA sadly) to say how many times Lexi has done that or how many times she has been penalized for such infractions. I won't pretend to be a expert in that area as there are several other members such as yourself who have watched more or know more specific occasions where this has happened.

My point with bringing up Hovland was simply that I recalled the same penalty being given out this year and we have an example of it being applied on tour recently to reference back (I haven't heard of it happening all too often is all). I am by no means saying their intent was the same (clearly it was not as Hovland seems pretty stand up in character), as it does seem in the video the ball is moved to a more advantageous position. 
 

Personally, I don't believe the governing bodies can or should even try to legislate intent. It's either a penalty or it's not!

I'm not suggesting Lexi intended to cheat, either. Honestly, I believe it's much more probable that this is the result of years of engraining an unorthodox method of marking the golf ball. It's something she did without thought or consideration of how it may look. Especially when we consider how often she's been filmed doing the exact same thing. I found no less than four instances just by searching "Lexi Thompson cheating" on YouTube.  The issue at the 2020 British Open notwithstanding, she doesn't appear to have had an issue in the past few years.  That's a positive and also speaks to the probability that it was something she wasn't aware of.

I still contend the issue at the Open was a penalty, without question!

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Does anyone think that if we used this same video replay/analysis of the hundreds (make that thousands) of marked, lifted, and placed balls, to see just how many balls are positioned back to the same exact location, there would be no "misplaced balls"?  I mean technically, the superimposed mark cannot move. Just how exact is acceptable?  I still contend this was in the category of picking the fly dung out of the pepper and one of (if not the worst) calls on tour.

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