So Yeon Ryu won the ANA Inspiration against Lexi Thompson, and as majors these days go, there was no lack of drama. Thompson was given a four-stroke penalty during the final round for something that she had done the day before.
The four-stroke penalty is actually comprised of two different two-stroke penalties, given to Lexi for misplacing her ball after marking it and for signing an incorrect score card. The penalty was seen by a viewer at home, who saw Lexi misplace her ball maybe an inch differently on Saturday, and emailed the LPGA of the mistake. The LPGA confirmed the mistake with video review and penalized Lexi mid round on Sunday with six holes to go. Thompson had a three-shot lead before she was told of her penalty.
Learning you are now one behind with six holes to go, because of something you had done yesterday, must have been devastating. But somehow Thompson pushed through and gained back strokes to force a playoff, although you could visibly see how difficult it was for her. The first LPGA major of the season ended with a birdie from Yeon Ryu after Lexi missed the fairway. The two congratulated each other, but the win was bittersweet.
How can a sport based on respect and integrity, help sabotage a player based on human error? In no other sport, do they penalize a player/team for something they did yesterday. The day was over, and even if she did end up making that error, how can you penalize her for signing a correct score card yesterday, that was deemed incorrect today? Not to mention, a viewer called in the penalty, not a rules official, who should have caught it right there and then.
The whole ordeal is completely frustrating, and yet the person who it actually effected has been undeniably courageous.
“It’s unfortunate what happened. I did not mean that at all. I didn’t realize I did that. I felt strong through the finish, and it was great to see the fans behind me.”
She never called out the LPGA once, she just kept saying that she didn’t mean it, and how could she? When you are marking your ball, how is there any way to really tell if you put it back in the exact same spot? Sure, these players are professionals, but in a high pressure situation like a major, or even just on your every day golf course, the ball might move an inch. As we saw with Dustin Johnson at last year’s U.S. Open. Was his situation made better because he won in the end? No. Lexi’s is no better or worse (maybe a little worse) than that penalty, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that the rules on the professional level needs to change, something big needs to change. Viewers should not be referees.
It’s unfortunate that So Yeon Ryu’s win is overshadowed, after a wonderful run and finishing in the top-5 of her last played tournaments, but it’s not her major. This major is for the LPGA, the USGA, the PGA, the R&A. This if for them. This is a wake up call.