Lexi Thompson Denied LPGA Major Victory After Fan Emails Missed Rule Violation

Lexi Thompson should be celebrating her second LPGA major win, instead she’ll have to settle for second place.

ESPN reported that during the final round of play Sunday at the ANA Inspiration tournament, officials approached the Florida native to inform her that she was being accessed a four-stroke penalty.

The kicker? The violation had been committed the day before and wasn’t noticed by an LPGA official, but a fan watching on TV.

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Replays showed that when Thompson went to place her ball on the 17th hole, she placed it in the wrong spot, which brought her a two-stroke penalty. Since players have to sign their scorecards at the end of each round, Thompson was docked two more strokes for “returning an incorrect scorecard.”

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The penalty knocked Thompson out of the lead, but she was able to battle back over the final six holes to force a playoff with the eventual winner, South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu.

Fans watching at home, including Tiger Woods, sounded off on Twitter after being alerted to Thompson’s penalty. There was no dispute that Thompson had committed the infraction, even if unintentional. The issue was with the manner in which it was discovered.

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The Golf Channel reported that after the tournament Thompson credited the fans with helping her complete the final six holes.

“It’s great to have the fan base that I do. They got me through the whole round. It’s unfortunate what happened. I did not mean that at all. I didn’t realize I did that (improperly replaced her ball). I fought strong through the finish and it was great to see the fans behind me.”

Unfortunately for the LPGA, its men’s counterpart the PGA and the USGA, controversy surrounding rules, as well as when and how they are enforced, is becoming the rule, instead of an exception.

As Anna Nordqvist watched the tournament play out, one has to wonder if she had flashbacks to last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, where she saw her chance of winning evaporate after being accessed a two-stroke penalty for grounded club.

As FoxSports reported as the time, officials were criticized for how they informed Nordqvist and her playoff challenger Brittany Lang, who were in the middle of playing the third hole of a three-hole playoff, of the penalty.

“Up first, Nordqvist hit her third shot onto the green when a USGA official stopped play to inform the players. Lang, then, had the benefit of knowing she had a sudden two-stroke advantage before hitting her third shot, leading some to criticize the timing of the announcement.”

While Nordqvist shot a bogey, Lang would go on to par the hole and win the Open.

Controversy is not exclusive to the LPGA.

As noted by the Inquisitr last year, Dustin Johnson found himself in a similar situation as Lexi Thompson.

During the 2016 U.S. Open, Johnson alerted officials that he may have inadvertently caused the ball to move backwards while putting on the fifth hole. After sharing his version of what happened, he was told to continue his play.

By the time he reached the 12th hole, Johnson was told he might be accessed a penalty and wasn’t informed that he had been accessed a one-stroke penalty until he had completed play.

While he was able to hold off three other players to seal the victory, his fellow golfers defended him on Twitter while questioning the USGA, the association which oversees both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women’s Open.

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As for Lexi Thompson, she showed true sportsmanship. Thompson stayed for an hour after the heartbreaking loss to sign autographs for fans. In an Instagram post later that evening, Thompson reiterated how thankful she was for the fan support as she played the last six holes.

A day later, Thompson took to Instagram again. This time, to congratulate Ryu, address the controversy and defend the officials.

With Thompson scheduled to take a few weeks off, one wonders if she could have used an extra $150,000 – the difference in purse total for first and second place.

What do you think about the controversy? Should officials be allowed to retroactively access penalties that they missed?

[Featured Image by Alex Gallardo/AP Images]