Lexi given 4-stroke penalty after TV viewer spots rules violation, loses in playoff

Another professional golf major, and another head-scratching rules controversy.

This time, LPGA star Lexi Thompson took center stage, and the blunder cost her a major championship.

Thompson led the tour’s first major of the season, the ANA Inspiration, by two strokes after 54 holes, but a ruling on Sunday cost her four strokes.

As Thompson was putting on the 12th hole during the final round, the Golf Channel commentators began talking about a rules infraction that had recently been brought to their attention — but it happened in the third round.

On the 17th hole on Saturday, video shows Thompson marking her ball before attempting a short putt. In the replay, Thompson’s coin was not visible when she marked her ball, but it was afterward when she placed the ball back on the green, meaning she had replaced the ball in the wrong place.

Officials retroactively assessed Thompson with a two-stroke penalty for playing from the wrong place, plus an additional two strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard after the third round.

Dan Maselli, manager of rules and competition for the LPGA, said on the telecast that the LPGA was not aware of the infraction until a viewer emailed the tour with the information when the final group was on the 7th hole Sunday. Rules officials then reviewed the video before making a decision and alerting Thompson and the other players.

“One of the unfortunate things about live professional golf and live television is people do see things and I wish they would speak up more quickly because then the additional two-point penalty, she wouldn’t have occurred that if we could have gotten this (taken care of) during her round (Saturday),” Maselli said.

A rules official told Thompson of the four-stroke swing as she walked off the 12th hole Sunday. She suddenly went from leading the tournament at 16 under to falling two strokes off the lead at 12 under.

Thompson called the ruling “ridiculous” and fought tears on the 13th tee as she prepared to hit her drive. “She’s trying to hit this tee shot from tears,” Mike Tirico said on the telecast.

Thompson went on to birdie the 13th and then birdied the 18th to get to 14 under and join a playoff with So Yeon Ryu. Ryu birdied the first playoff hole to beat Thompson. Tiger Woods was among those who witnessed the ruling and voiced his displeasure.

UPDATE: The LPGA released the following statement.

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