Starting in January, TV viewers can no longer contact tournaments to cite rules violations made by professional golfers. Not surprisingly, Lexi Thompson is delighted by the new policy announced Monday by the USGA and the R&A, golf’s main governing bodies, which also ruled that players will no longer will be penalized two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard if they were not aware of a rules violation at the time.
In April, Thompson earned widespread sympathy from fans as well as fellow pros after she was penalized four strokes during the final round of the ANA Inspiration, and went on to lose the LPGA’s first major of the year in a playoff. Tournament officials docked Thompson two strokes for misplacing her ball on the 17th green during the previous round, plus two more for having signed an incorrect scorecard, after a TV viewer notified them of the infraction via email.
When Thompson was informed of the punishment, she broke into tears during her round but collected herself enough to make up a stroke down the stretch and force the playoff. “Is this a joke? Oh, my God,” she said at the time. “Four-stroke penalty, that’s just ridiculous.”
On Monday, Thompson said in a statement, “I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations … . In my case, I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
The governing bodies aren’t eliminating video review of golfers’ rounds altogether, just restricting it in most cases to designated officials for PGA and LPGA tournaments. Referring to a working group, including representatives of the major professional golf tours, which agreed on a “new set of video protocols,” the USGA said the committee “does not need or want outside intervention by viewers who believe they may have seen a Rules violation on the video broadcast.”
“Specifically, the Committee will not assign personnel or establish a procedure or practice to facilitate, monitor, review or follow up on viewer inquiries (such as phone calls, emails or texts) that seek to raise possible Rules violations,” the USGA said. It added that such “viewer call ins,” no matter how “well intentioned” they may be, create “an unhealthy perception of random, inconsistent and/or improperly motivated outside intervention in applying the Rules.”
“The committee [at each tournament] will take on the responsibility of monitoring in real time,” Thomas Pagel, the USGA senior director of Rules of Golf and Amateur Status, said (via Golf Digest). “Essentially, everything you’re seeing at home, we’ve already seen it. We’re going to apply the rules accordingly.”
In addition, even if a tournament’s official video review shows a player committing a rules violation, the player will not be penalized if he or she could not have “reasonably” noticed the violation with the “naked eye.” Only video from a tournament’s “broadcast partner” will be eligible for review in most cases, not video “from an individual’s camera, smartphone or similar device.”
“We see this today in social media and otherwise, and not just limited to golf, you see video that’s clipped and manipulated,” Pagel said. “And rather that put yourself in a position of having to trust that, we’re just saying we’re going to rely on those credible sources.”
Spectators at tournaments, in addition to players, caddies and event staffers, can still alert officials about possible violations they spot, with those concerns addressed by an official video review.
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