Lexi Thompson was leading the ANA Inspiration by two strokes. And then she wasn’t.
In a strange series of events, Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty on the 12th hole Sunday due to a viewer calling in an infraction that occurred during the third round. Thompson was deemed to have replaced her marked ball in an incorrect spot — and then proceeded to play from that spot — on the 17th green Saturday, which is a two-stroke penalty. The additional two-stroke penalty was for signing an incorrect scorecard.
After being informed of the ruling, Thompson was brought to tears and could be heard asking the walking rules official, “Is this a joke?”
As a social media firestorm raged, the LPGA put out the following statement:
“On Sunday afternoon, the LPGA received an e-mail from a television viewer saying that Lexi Thompson did not properly replace her ball prior to putting out on the 17th hole during Saturday’s third round of the ANA Inspiration. The claim was quickly investigated by LPGA rules officials.
“After a full review, it was determined that Thompson breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three. She was immediately notified of the breach by LPGA Rules Committee between holes 12 and 13 of the final round.”
Thompson would go on to birdie Nos. 13, 15 and 18 to force a playoff with So Yeon Ryu but lost on the first playoff hole.
Several hours after the loss, Thompson wrote the following message on Instagram:
“Well it was an emotional day here for me, first off I do want to say what I had done was 100% not intentional at all I didn’t realize I had done that. I want to say thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers and Mission Hills for making this week possible at the @anainspiration! Also to the fans out there, words can’t describe what you being there for me, meant to me. You helped me push thru those last holes so thank you for always believing in me. A big thanks to my caddy as well for always staying positive and being there for me when it got tough. I played some great golf so definitely a lot of positives to take from the week. Time for a very needed 3 weeks off now. Thank you everybody.”
Most people were upset with the decision, including Tiger Woods:
Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes. Let's go @Lexi, win this thing anyway.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 3, 2017
— Natalie Gulbis (@natalie_gulbis) April 3, 2017
"That's just ridiculous," Lexi Thompson says when informed she'll be penalized 4 strokes for replacing marked ball incorrectly Saturday.
— Ron Sirak (@ronsirak) April 2, 2017
— MS Maddog (@MikelzanAztec) April 3, 2017
— Matt Bee (@_Matt_Bee) April 3, 2017
Golf is a game of honor. But when a TV spectator can call in a day-old rule infraction, and affect a outcome, that's unfair! #lexithompson
— Medlinlaw (@medlinlaw) April 3, 2017
This is our livelihood and a caller who had to have slo-mo and replayed the clip caught this tiny infraction. Get a life! No more call ins!
— Alena Sharp (@AlenaSharp) April 3, 2017
Feeling for @Lexi right now, can't imagine the emotions she's going through.
— Christina Kim (@TheChristinaKim) April 3, 2017
The rules can't be selectively enforced.
But the rules can be changed.
— RonGreenJr (@RonGreenJr) April 3, 2017
— Smylie Kaufman (@SmylieKaufman10) April 3, 2017
2 shots is enough, 4 is ludicrous https://t.co/KsymUeRFf9
— InTheFlesch (@Steve_Flesch) April 3, 2017
I've never felt more ashamed of the sport I love than I do right now. It has to stop. Absolute madness
— Arron Oberholser (@ArronOberholser) April 3, 2017
Another embarrassing day for golf and rules which just don't make any common sense
— Dan Hicks (@DanHicksNBC) April 3, 2017