Armchair officials barred under rules shake-up

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LOS ANGELES: Golf chiefs on Monday announced that tournament officials will no longer act on evidence from television viewers as they attempt to avoid a repeat of the fiasco which scuppered Lexi Thompson’s title hopes at the ANA Inspiration this season.

The change was announced in a joint statement from the United States Golf Association and Royal and Ancient which had set up a working group to create a new set of protocols for video review.

In the most significant rule change, tournament rules officials will no longer accept “call-ins” from members of the public watching on television concerning possible rules violations.

From January 1, an individual or group of officials will be assigned to monitor the television feed to ensure no possible rules infractions occur.


It follows the furore which erupted in the final round of the year’s first women’s major, the ANA Inspiration, in California in April.

Lexi Thompson of the United States with the CME Race for the Globe trophy after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship at the Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida. AFP PHOTO

Thompson was on the 13th tee in the final round and leading by three shots when she was informed of a four-shot penalty.

The rules violation related to a phone call made by a member of the public who had spotted Thompson replacing her ball in the wrong spot during the previous day’s third round.

Thompson was docked two shots for the wrongly replaced ball and a further two for signing for an incorrect score. Thompson was left in tears by the controversy and eventually lost in a playoff.

Thompson welcomed the rule change in a statement early Monday.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the rules of golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson said.

“In my case, I am thankful that no-one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in future,” she added.

Thompson’s case triggered an outcry from professional golfers, with Tiger Woods and others lining up to condemn the influence of television viewers. “Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes,” Woods remarked on Twitter.

In addition to the video rules, the USGA/R&A statement said players would no longer incur a two-shot penalty for signing for a wrong score if it could be shown they were unaware of a penalty.

AFP

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