American golfer Lexi Thompson
suffered a devastating blow on Sunday that led her to lose what would have been her second major victory at the ANA Inspiration.
Halfway through her final round Thompson was informed she was being given a four-stroke penalty stemming from an incident that occurred the day before during her third round. The 22-year-old, who at the time of notification was leading by 2-strokes, looked stunned and asked “Is this a joke?” As she now realised she was actually 2-shots off the lead.
Despite her initial shock, Thompson managed to compose herself and carry on playing. But three birdies in her last six holes still wasn’t enough to overcome the penalty and forced her into a sudden death playoff with So Yeon Ryu that she lost.
So what was Thompson penalised for and why did it take the LPGA until the next round to inform her? Officials were notified via email by a television viewer that during the third round on Saturday the American had marked her ball on the 17th green but failed to place it back in the same spot. After a video review LPGA officials agreed and handed Thompson a 2-stroke penalty for the infraction plus an additional 2-strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard. Making her 67 a 71.
Thompson isn’t the first player to have been affected by golf’s incredulous rules. In the last year both the LPGA and PGA Tours have faced heavy criticism from fans and players for late rulings during a major. Last June Dustin Johnson claimed his first major title at the U.S. Open despite playing the last seven holes not knowing whether he would face a penalty for accidental ball movement. In the end he was handed a 1-stroke penalty but luckily it didn’t affect the tournament outcome. The following month at the U.S. Women’s Open, as Brittany Lang and Anna Nordqvist battled it out during the final round of the tournament a relook at Nordqvist’s second hole revealed she had “grounded” her club in the bunker. The USGA informed the Swedish player on the next hole after she had hit her third shot. Nordqvist was given a two-stroke penalty for the infraction and Lang went on to win her first major title.
Last night’s debacle further brought to the surface the dissatisfaction both players and fans have with golf’s governing bodies, with social media erupting with fury over the incident that cost Thompson the first major of the season.
Despite losing the tournament in such a difficult way Thompson remained composed and gracious throughout the event. Telling reporters, “I had to regroup myself, my caddie helped me out tremendously, we have a great relationship. I tried to gather myself and I made a great putt at 13.”
Adding, “I learned a lot about myself and how much I have in me. I wasn’t expecting what happened today to happen and I will learn from it.”
While the golfer at times could be seen to be holding back tears she still made the effort to talk to fans after Sunday’s final round, signing autographs and posing for pictures.