Thompson needs to tell her side of ANA incident

By Randall MellApril 24, 2017, 7:08 pm

Lexi Thompson’s agent asked the LPGA in strong terms for a “true and transparent accounting” of the details of the viewer’s intervention that impacted the outcome of the ANA Inspiration three weeks ago.

That goes both ways.

When Thompson meets the media for the first time since a four-shot penalty derailed her chance at winning a second major championship, there will be an accounting due there, too. She’s scheduled for a pretournament news conference in suburban Dallas on Wednesday at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout.

It will be the first time Thompson gets to fully explain what she was seeing and thinking as she marked her ball in the infraction in question at the 17th hole of Saturday’s third round. 

While LPGA players may be “up in arms” over yet another TV viewer’s intervention, as a prominent major champion told last week, you aren’t hearing players step up to defend the way Thompson marked her ball.

In fact, there has been curious silence on that front from the LPGA player ranks, even among players asked directly about it at the Lotte Championship the week after the ANA.

Clearly, fellow pros are curious to hear what Thompson has to say about the video replay that shows she shifted her ball over to a different spot on her mark before finishing up what’s being estimated as a 15-inch putt.

It was a violation of Rule 20-7c, “playing from the wrong place.” That two-shot penalty led to another two-shot penalty for violating Rule 6-6d for signing an incorrect scorecard.

In the immediate aftermath of her loss, Thompson said any mismarking of the ball was unintentional, that she didn’t realize she did anything wrong, but the more the replay has been shown, the more questions have intensified.

Thompson was everyone’s darling at the ANA Inspiration, with fans there chanting her name and appearing to try to will her to victory after learning of the four-shot penalty. While she still has enormous support, the repeated replay of her marking the ball, with the zoomed-up camera shot, has made the debate over that infraction more polarizing within social media and Internet comment sections.

So, there will be players and fans alike looking for transparency when Thompson meets with media on Wednesday.

After seeing replays, does she agree she committed an infraction?

Or does she think there may be some optical illusion created in the nature of the camerawork?

And why did she come in from the side of the ball to mark it?

What most viewers don’t see in the zoomed-in version of the replay is that Thompson’s ball is in the putting line of Sung Hyun Park, explaining why Thompson comes in from the side, to stay off Park’s line. But the replay also shows that Thompson’s eyes never appear to leave her ball and mark when she leans over and quickly marks and replaces.

And why didn’t Thompson ask to see the replay immediately after her round, before the playoff with So Yeon Ryu began?

Intent is first and foremost on the minds of players, and only Thompson knows that.

If she doesn’t believe she committed an infraction, then the camera work has to be explained.

If she says she may have been rushed and gotten careless after coming in from the side, playing her 27th hole late in the day, with long shadows showing there had to be a bit of a rush to complete play before sunset, then fellow players will weigh the reasonableness of that explanation with what they see in the replay.

It all comes down to three possibilities:

1. There was a careless mistake.

2. There was a willful violation, to improve the putting line.

3. There was some optical illusion in the camerawork.

When you watch Thompson mark the ball in real time, without the enhanced zoom, it’s difficult to see how a TV viewer actually spotted a problem with the mark. From this observer’s perspective, you almost had to be looking for it.

Ultimately, what fellow players conclude matters in these things, because integrity is so important in the game, with reputations stained by unresolved suspicion.

Thompson lost a major championship over this, and so the questions remain important. Nobody wants to see her reputation also unfairly impugned.

That’s the thing about a community of golfers. If improper markings are as much of a problem in the women’s game as Phil Mickelson says they are in the men’s game, then how the rest of the field deals with that matters.

If a player suspects a certain player of being fast and loose with the way she marks her ball, but she isn’t certain enough to confront the player or a rules official, then any complaint to other players in the locker room or over dinner is malicious gossip. It borders on character assassination because of what it suggests.

If a player is certain another player habitually plays with her mark to gain an advantage, but that player doesn’t confront the offender or bring in a rules official, then that player is derelict in her duty. She’s failing to protect the field.

There’s another accounting due in all of this.

It goes to LPGA pros “up in arms” over TV viewer intervention, their feeling that “enough is enough” with the viewer call-ins and emails impacting outcomes.

LPGA pros aren’t alone in that.

In the aftermath of the Thompson ruling, Tiger Woods and Gary Player joined Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb among big names calling for the USGA and R&A to prohibit viewers from being able to call in violations. Will the USGA and R&A respond in any emphatic way?

There are those within the women’s game who would like to see this go away, because it’s a black eye for the tour, but there’s still too much at stake in what change should or shouldn’t come about because of what happened to Thompson.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.