By Mickey Walker

What a fantastic start to the golfing majors. In the ANA Inspiration Lexi Thompson was controversially given a four-shot penalty during the final round for an infringement on the 17th green the previous day and brought to the attention of the LPGA Tour officials by an armchair viewer watching on TV.

Having been made aware of the penalty after playing the 12th hole, Lexi then played the remaining six holes in two under to get into a play-off with So Yeon Ryu.

The rest is history, with the Korean birdieing the first extra hole to claim victory. However, in years to come, the week will be remembered for the controversial ruling given to Lexi.

The ruling, and the way it was handled, once again made the game seem as if it has complicated rules that are difficult to administer quickly and fairly. It brought into question whether viewers’ observations should be taken into account.

Also, once a player has completed their round and started the following day’s round, is it right for a penalty to be applied retrospectively?

A ruling has since come in allowing tournament officials more flexibility to apply common sense in certain situations. I can’t think of any other sport where viewers can directly affect the application of the rules either at the time or retrospectively.

The referee, umpire or official or organisation has the final say in all other sports. Yes, there may be a short delay while waiting to watch the relevant replay but can you imagine what would happen if football results started to be overturned because of a breach of the rules the day after an incident occurred.

I have mixed feelings about penalty shots being retrospectively applied, as long as the tournament hasn’t been completed.

Lexi Thompson

The timing, in terms of when the transgression occurs is all important as things stand at the moment. On two separate occasions in my playing career I inadvertently broke the rules, once resulting in disqualification, and once – because it wasn’t known to an official until after the tournament had been completed – resulting in no penalty.

The first incident came after having finished with a round of 68 playing in the French Open – my playing partner had also played well and scored a 69. On leaving the course I stopped to check the scoreboard. It showed that I’d shot 69 and my playing partner a 68!

You always know what you’ve scored so I went back to the scorer’s office to say that our scores had been recorded incorrectly.

On checking our scorecards, our scores had been recorded correctly. The fault was that a local starter had handed out our scorecards but given us each our playing partner’s scorecard, thus I had recorded Marjan’s score on my scorecard, and she on hers.

Thus we were both disqualified for signing for incorrect scores on some of our individual holes. It is a mistake that neither of us has ever made again!

The other incident was while playing in a tournament in Illinois. Having played a bunker shot on the 11th hole, I again found myself in a greenside bunker on the 12th only to realise that somehow neither I nor my caddy had put my sand wedge back into my bag.

No problem, as I had a friend watching me who offered to run back to the previous green and get it for me. As my friend went to collect my sand wedge, we waved the group following us up to the green and invited them to play through us.

My two playing partners and myself thought no more about this incident until a rules official told me the following week, that if he had known about it before the conclusion of the tournament I would have been disqualified as stopping to let the group behind through didn’t constitute playing with undue delay.


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