LPGA players react to USGA, R&A decision: ‘It didn’t really clarify anything’

April 26, 2017

On Tuesday the USGA and R&A announced they were making a change to the Rules of Golf to preclude the use of certain kinds of video evidence. The governing bodies insisted that the changes were not a result of the recent scandal caused when a television viewer’s call-in triggered a four-stroke penalty for Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration. But nearly everyone in the golf world interpreted the move as a response to that controversy–and many players in the LPGA are still not happy, saying that the changes did not address the root problems with the rules.

“There’s more gray area than clear definition. It didn’t really clarify anything,” Stacy Lewis told the Golf Channel. “I don’t think it changes Lexi’s ruling at all.”

The rule would probably have affected the penalty that brought Anna Nordqvist’s hopes at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open crashing down. Nordqvist was assessed a two-stroke penalty only after high-definition video replay captured her club moving a few grains of sand in a bunker. The new rule, Decision 34-3/10, prohibits penalties that can’t be seen with the naked eye. It also says that if a tournament committee decides that the player did “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” then there will be no penalty, no matter what else comes to light on video.

Nordqvist released a statement on Tuesday after the decision was announced: “I am happy with the USGA and R&A Rules Decision regarding infractions that cannot be reasonably seen with the naked eye. After my experience last year at the U.S. Women’s Open at Cordevalle, I know firsthand the impact that the advancements in technology can have on potential rulings. As I said following the round I made a mistake, and I take full responsibility for it. I am happy that going forward this will no longer be an issue.”

The new rule does not seem to clarify what ultimately doomed Thompson’s prospects at the ANA Inspiration: not the two-stroke penalty for marking her ball incorrectly, but the two strokes added because she had unknowingly signed an incorrect scorecard (she wasn’t told about the infraction until the next day). The change does not have anything to say about viewer call-ins or place time limits on when rules infractions may be assessed. Many pro golfers, including Tiger Woods, continue to believe that fans at home should not be allowed to call in rules infractions.

“I don’t think you should be able to phone in after the fact,” Catriona Matthew said.

Brittany Lang agreed.

“My opinion is they have to do away with call-ins,” she told the Golf Channel. “I think if you are going to call in, they ought to put your picture and your information on TV, just to show who is doing this and why you did it.”