Skip to main content

Thompson needs to tell her side of ANA incident

Getty Images

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.