USGA Rules Officials & Surrounding Controversies
On Sunday at the first major of the LPGA season Lexi Thompson was stripped of her championship by a decision brought on by a spectator of the game. The first impression by professional golfers around the world was unified, this was an unfair decision that affected an outcome without intent.
LPGA rules official Sue Witters said later, “the email was sent through the LPGA. com Fan Feedback portal and received by the tour’s website close report comment form.” Thompson was assessed a 4 shot penalty on her 13th hole on Sunday while leading by 4 shots. She lost to to Yeon Ryu, who made birdie on the first hole to win in a playoff.
At 2016 US Open in a playoff on the second hole of a three-hole playoff between Brittany Lang and Anna Nordqvist, Anna appeared to ground her club in a fairway bunker, not realizing that she had done so. She was assessed a two stroke penalty. It took a high resolution zoom review to see a few pebbles of sand move. There obviously was no intent on the part of the player nor was the player aware that any sand had moved.
At the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club Dustin Johnson was told that he might be penalized at the end of his round for an infraction that was already ruled on by one of the top officials in the USGA ranks. Fortunately, Dustin outperformed the USGA errant decision and went on to win the Open, saving face for the USGA.
In 2010 at the U.S. Open Dustin Johnson looked to be headed for a three-man playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson. However, what he didn’t know was he had grounded his club in one of Whistling Straits’ innumerable bunkers before his approach shot to the final hole of regulation. Johnson had played from a sandy area outside of the ropes that had been walked through by fans. Pete Dye would say that dozens of unplanned sand areas were created by storms and erosion on the course that were not to be considered bunkers but instead waste areas.
It’s been a rough few years for professional golf rules officials, the anchoring ban, an unnecessarily compromised Merion, a bumpy Chambers Bay – has now gotten even worse. It has never sat well with the players that an organization of amateurs is policing the professionals, but this may prove to be the final straw. They’ve largely held their tongue over the past few years. Don’t expect them to stay silent much longer.
Let’s face it if you have rules officials on the course with every group and they miss a call, it should end there. It should never be overturned by anyone watching a video a day later unless of course you are going to put a mini Go Pro on the hat of every competitor and monitor every shot in every event.