Champion golfer no match for a TV viewer with email

Golf is struggling and an incident over the weekend explains why. Golf, and its fans, are insufferable.

Lexi Thompson had a three shot lead in the first major tournament of the year for the LPGA, but then was given a four-stroke penalty because she had placed a ball 1 inch from where it was supposed to be on a 1-foot putt. One. Inch. And she didn’t move the ball any closer to the hole.

Now the insufferable part. It wouldn’t have happened if some viewer watching from the couch hadn’t noticed the mistake and sent an email on Saturday, so that the penalty could be assessed while she played the 13th hole on Sunday.

No other sport lets this happen.

“Is this a joke?” Thompson asked a golf official who let a TV watcher do the work of golf officials.


Thompson lost the tournament and $154,509.

It’s the second time in a year this sort of thing has happened in a major. Last year, Anna Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty for hitting a tiny amount sand in her backswing. A viewer posted the evidence on Twitter and that was enough for the golf gods.

  • Golf isn’t even a sport…

    With that said, let the official officials do the officiating.

    • Rob

      Watch it, now… : )

      • Golf? I don’t watch golf.

        /My mom used to volunteer at the local pro golf tourneys when they’d be in town. She was one of the course “Shhh!” sign carriers. I have to give her a hard time about golf and it just carries on here. It’s all good-natured ribbing…kind of the same thing I do with baseball…

  • MikeB

    Imagine if other sports allowed Next Day Instant Replay, especially from couch potatoes. Absurd.

    • Zachary

      “Vikings Win Super Bowl – 53 Years In A Row!”

      • Drew Pearson pushed off of Nate Wright…

        • MikeB

          Zero doubt.

        • Zachary

          Ron Gant was clearly out.

          • Yes, yes he was.

            You want access to first base? You’d better resist being pulled off that base by Hrbek.

  • Zachary

    This is a great idea to make baseball even longer!

  • Gary F

    That’s a joke. The next day?

    But someday hockey will get this way too. When instant replay is checked not for whether the puck crossed the goal line but for two minutes earlier to see if they entered the zone offside.

    • This is already being done..although the coach has to initiate the challenge.

      • ec99

        Yes it is, sometimes with potent effect. An offside call disallowed a winning UND goal in the NCAA tournament this year. BU went on to win in OT.

      • Gary F

        Oh, I know, next thing you know, they will be watching replays in the locker room during period breaks finding stuff like this.

        • Ugh, no kidding. So far as football goes…they may end up with literal “armchair QBs”

  • Al

    Gonna be that person now: Is it a coincidence that viewers have called out just female golfers?

    • No, there are plenty of instances of the same thing happening in men’s tournaments.

      • Zachary

        I seem to recall something from last year, where they pretty much caught it as it was happening?

      • Al

        None noted above, and I’m guessing it’s no surprise that I don’t really follow golf to know otherwise. 🙂

      • wjc

        It happened at the 2013 Masters when Tiger Woods was determined to have made an illegal drop by a viewer. If I’m not mistaken, the drop would now be legal after a rule change. Some of the golf rules are ridiculous in their precision, while having nothing to do with a competitive advantage.

    • MikeB

      Golf fans, in all their imagined glory and amplified priggishness, have done this for men’s tournaments also.

  • John

    This sort of thing will fully de-ligitimize the sport (any sport). If the officials aren’t making the calls, then why have officials?

    I was once part of a high school swim team, where due to how officiating was handled, a coach from a rival was assigned to watch for false starts. He called one against our team, there was video showing that it was an incorrect call (taken by a parent).

    The call stood. Fan based video review is not part of the protocol for meets, if for no other reason than that lane had an extra set of recorded eyes, and thus, potentially an unfair advantage over the other lanes. Valuable lesson that.

    Unless objectivity and fairness to all participants can be assured by the means used to make the call (i.e. were all golfers subject to the same scrutiny and video evidence throughout their matches), then they call should not be made.

    The official’s job is to certify the match. That’s not the job of the TV viewer at home.

  • dukepowell

    The timeliness of the penalty enforcement seems to be the issue. She apparently did break a rule and the penalty is two strokes. The additional two stroke penalty came when she signed a score card at the end of the round that did not include the ball placement infraction.

    Enforcing that last penalty does seem akin to changing a three point field goal to a two pointer after review the next day and changing the outcome of a basketball game.

    Having said that, in golf there are no “official Officials” that watch every golfer’s move during play. It is a self-policing game. Players police themselves AND other participants. If another player had observed Thompson’s mistake they certainly would have called her on it. The term of art is called “protecting the field.”

    In this case the e-mailer was protecting the field. While Thompson was out money and a tournament win, others in the field were justly enriched by her error(s).

    Its not pretty and certainly the timeliness of the decision is debatable but golf has rules that are rigidly enforced for the good of all.

    • Laurie K.

      I would agree with you if the cameras were giving every player equal time. That way the “arm chair officials” would have a better shot of administering unofficial justice to all of the players, not just the popular ones. Also, with regard to second 2 stroke penalty for the incorrect scorecard, without knowing whether she intentionally moved the ball, or that she had reason to believe that she did, there should be no penalty.

      • wjc

        It would seem like once the scorecard is accepted as correct by tournament officials, there should be no further penalties. What if the infraction was found 2 days after the tournament ended? The whole thing is pretty much absurd.

      • dukepowell

        I’m not saying you are wrong….. I may even agree. But all this was done according to the rules of golf and the players are responsible for knowing them.

        They are fully aware that unknowingly making a mistake can cost them and the penalties are found in the rules.

        • Laurie K.

          Which may be why, as Bob pointed out in his piece, that golf is losing popularity. Who wants to play a sport that is filled with couch potato tattle-tails who can actually affect the results of a tournament?

  • jon

    hhmmm… spins up patent generator:
    “System designed to leverage conventional media and social media to crowdsource officiating sporting events.”

    Yes… that should do… then a quick proof of concept app that will allow people to make their own calls from their couch based on televised sporting events, correlate the data and broadcast the results onto the jumbotron/scoreboard at the game…

    Might need to add something about micropayments to those doing the crowdsourced officiating… Or perhaps their payment can just be access to different angles of play via internet video feeds…

    Yes, this should be able to eliminate the job title of referee from all professional sports.
    Wonder how much the NFL is willing to pay to not have to pay referees… quick internet search suggests they are paying a few million dollars a year (4 or 5 I’d estimate) for referees.

  • Rex Schultrich

    C’mon, this was an honest mistake. Adding a 2 stroke penalty for a “falsified score” is just piling on!

  • seedhub

    I find just about everything related to participating in sports wonderful, and just about everything related to watching sports intolerable.

  • Mike Worcester

    Perhaps the Scots had it right. Golf is for recreation and imbibing. Now bowling, *that’s* a sport! :))