Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lexi's Loss - Let's Learn

What happened to Lexi Thompson during the final round of the LPGA's first major of the year the ANA Inspiration is unfair for many reasons. I plead with both the LPGA and the PGA to put in  rules and guidelines for the use of video replay and viewer input, as well as timing of penalties assessed.

All sports fans are used to the idea of using video replay to make rules decisions in other professional sports. Each sport carefully debated the their respective sports would use this technology to enhance the fairness of the game. Each sport has their own set of rules about the number of times and which infractions a video replay can be engaged.

Have the LPGA and PGA discussed and debated the fairest way to use video replay in the game of golf? Has their been a debate about the fact that only a portion of the field is on camera and even fewer actually on television? Have they reviewed a set of guidelines and procedures to handle the situation of viewer input and timing of penalties? Have the LPGA and PGA discussed how a players game plan changes based on the scoreboard? The USGA allows for "local rules" that are unique to golf courses, I'm sure the LPGA and PGA can include their own "local rules" for their unique situation. I hope these discussions have taken place but if not, maybe they will.

The USGA is responsible to write, review and change the Rule of Golf. The job of the rules officials  and the players is to enforce the rules. I believe it's the responsibility of the LPGA and PGA to make the rules about the use of video replay and viewer input (or interference as many are calling it).

I understand that the LPGA Rules officials were following the rules set by the USGA. But experience should tell us that information from television viewers is unfair and not good for the game. Think back to Anna Nordqvist who was informed of a penalty for barely touching the sand in a fairway bunker during the second hole of a three hole playoff in the 2016 US Women's Open. Only a slow motion replay of the swing could have revealed the infraction. The unfair part of this story was that Anna was informed of the penalty after her third shot on the final playoff hole. Her opponent and eventually winner, Brittany Lang was informed before her third shot. This information changed Brittany's game plan - she could now play it safe. "It certainly changed her game plan," Nordqvist said. "But, you know, hopefully we can all learn from it and hopefully we can all get better.

I'm not sure we learned anything. I'm hopeful the LPGA and PGA can learn from the situation with Lexi! 

I agree with Jane Geddes who commented after the conclusion of the tournament that there should be a "statue of limitations." The 3rd round was virtually "in the books." The tee times for the final round were set and not only underway, but through 12 holes. Professional golfers with a three shot lead play a different game than a golfer one stroke behind on the back nine. If Lexi knew she was behind would she have hit a safe tee shot on hole twelve, which ended up in a three putt? She may have played with a different strategy and tried to hit it close for a birdie.

The emotional and mental strain on Lexi was tremendous. She handled it incredibly well and with total class. Dustin Johnson also had to fight hard through the mental challenge at the 2016 US Open after the delayed penalty was called on him in the final round. He was told on the twelfth tee that he might get a one shot penalty for his ball moving on the fifth green. They wouldn't know until after the round. He played not knowing if he was leading or one shot behind. Fortunately for Dustin, he stayed focused, played great and went on to victory. Again, the timing of the actual call by the rules officials seems unfair.

The golf world is pleading with the LPGA and PGA to set fair standards when it comes to viewer input and timing of penalties assessed. Don't wait until 2019 for the USGA to adopt rules changes. Please, for the good of the game do something now.