Penalty continues to hang over emotional Lexi

By Randall MellApril 27, 2017, 12:15 am

IRVING, Texas – Lexi Thompson bowed her head and wiped away the tears she couldn’t choke back in the middle of her news conference Wednesday at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.

Almost a month after a controversial rules infraction cost her a chance to win the ANA Inspiration, she still looked emotionally wracked.

“It was kind of a nightmare,” Thompson said.

One she can’t quite shake with the rules snafu dragging into yet another week - with the USGA and R&A releasing a new rules decision Tuesday that players are calling “The Lexi Rule,” a new standard for limiting use of video evidence.

Thompson’s emotional state Wednesday was revealing, showing how deeply the controversy wounded her, even as she returns to play Thursday at Las Colinas Country Club.

Thompson’s statements were just as revealing, showing how much she and her team have struggled to accept the ruling.

“It’s been an interesting three weeks,” Thompson said. “It’s been really hard on me. A little less sleep than usual, but I’ve just been spending a lot of time with my family and friends and working out a bunch, and just taking time for myself, just trying to regroup myself and get back to practicing a lot.”

Wednesday’s highly-anticipated news conference must have grown a little more nerve-wracking for Thompson, as she waited in the wings almost 15 minutes for a tech team to fix an audio problem before she could talk to the assembled media. Her parents, Scott and Judy, watched in the back, with her agent Bobby Kreusler, standing just off stage. The room was full, but only with about a half-dozen reporters, as LPGA and tournament staff made up much of the audience.

Volunteers of America Texas Shootout: Articles, photos and videos

Thompson, 22, has been in a sort of self-imposed exile since the ANA setback, where she looked as if she might run away with her second major championship title before getting blindsided in the final round. She got hit that Sunday with a two-shot penalty for improperly returning her ball to its mark on the 17th green in Saturday’s third round. Because a TV viewer alerted the LPGA to the violation on Sunday, Thompson was also socked with a two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Enhanced video showed Thompson returning her ball to different spot on her ball mark, closer to the hole.

Thompson did not answer directly Wednesday when asked if she thought she committed an infraction.

“It was not my intention at all,” she said.

Thompson said she marked the 15-inch putt because her father told her not to rush short putts in majors. She also said she twisted the ball slightly before returning it to its mark, because she uses a dot on the ball as a focal point for making her stroke.

Thompson was asked a second time to explain how video came to show her returning her ball to a different spot on her mark, a violation that many of  her fellow players agree warranted the first two-shot penalty.

“I have seen the video, and I can see where they’re coming from with it,” Thompson said. “It might have been, I guess, me rotating the ball, but like I said, I’ve always played by the Rules of Golf. Growing up with two older brothers, they were always on me for playing by the Rules of Golf.

“There’s no need for me to improve anything. Those greens were absolutely perfect, and the whole week there was nothing in my line to be moving it from anything. So, I have no reason behind it. I did not mean it at all.”

What Thompson didn’t say Wednesday speaks volumes about the still unresolved nature of this entire thing within her team’s ranks. She didn’t acknowledge she committed an infraction.

Late last week, Kreusler was pushing the LPGA to divulge the name of the TV viewer, demanding a “true and transparent” accounting of the details of the viewer’s intervention.

“The field and all of the LPGA players are deserving of knowing exactly how the email happened, who was responsible, so we can make sure it was an honest, fair and equitable playing field for all,” Kreusler said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have that feeling right now and there are an awful lot of people out there who feel exactly the same way.”

While Thompson prepares to move ahead Thursday at the Volunteers of America Shootout, this continuing pressure from the Thompson camp makes it appear they aren’t ready yet to move on.

In fact, Kreusler gives the exact opposite impression, the feeling that the ANA’s finish remains unresolved, with the hope a more satisfying end game is out there.

Fellow players aren't sure that does Thompson any good.

“For Lexi’s sake, we need to move on,” two-time major champion Stacy Lewis said. “I know she’s had some trouble dealing with everything. If she can handle this the right way, it can completely change the way people look at her. It can be better than winning a major, if she handles it the right way, and if her team handles it the right way. So, for her sake I hope they can do that.”

Hall of Famer Karrie Webb said she admired the way Thompson fought back from the penalty that Sunday at the ANA, making birdie on three of the final five holes to force a playoff.

“In the heat of the moment, I thought it was quite incredible how Lexi handled herself,” Webb said. “I think that’s going to go a long way for her as a person, on and off the course, and how people view her as a player and a person.”

But . . .

“To move on from the ANA, I think her team just needs to let it go,” Webb said. “She can’t move on from it if everyone around her is talking about it still.

“Having an investigation, what do you get out of that, besides prolonging it all? It still doesn’t mean she will win the ANA championship. It doesn’t give her that, so what is the point?”

The last question Thompson fielded was yet another about marking her ball, if she’ll change anything about her practice going forward.

“I’m just going to continue to mark my ball,” Thompson said.

There was a certain defiance in the answer that hung over her exit.

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods teed off at 12:15PM ET alongside Justin Rose for Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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Fowler among 5 to skip WGC-Match Play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 2:24 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five of the top 64 players in the world will skip next week’s WGC-Dell Match Play.

Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott all will miss the second WGC event of the year, held next week at Austin Country Club.

As a result, the last man into the field is world No. 69 Luke List. Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Joost Luiten and Keegan Bradley also got into the field.

Julian Suri and Bill Haas are the first two alternates, if anyone else withdraws from the round-robin-style match-play event.

This is the second year in a row that Rose, Fowler, Stenson and Scott will not play in Austin. Koepka reached the quarterfinals each of the past two years, but he is still recovering from a wrist injury.

The final seeding for the event will be determined after this week’s tournaments. The bracket show is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, live on Golf Channel.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.