So Yeon Ryu won the ANA Inspiration, the first LPGA major of the year, on Sunday. Unfortunately, Ryu’s big win has turned into a bit of an afterthought, undeservedly so, because of controversy surrounding a late penalty that was assessed to Lexi Thompson.
By the time Thompson was headed to tee off on the 13th hole in the final round, she had a 3-shot lead and was in the driver’s seat, six holes away from capturing her second major.
Then a viewer sent an email.
The viewer emailed tournament officials alleging Thompson had committed a violation on Saturday by misplacing her ball by one inch.
After officials thoroughly reviewed the tape, they penalized Thompson two strokes for misplacing her ball and two more for signing an incorrect scorecard. Sue Witters who is in charge of enforcing LPGA Tour rules, had the unenviable task of breaking the devastating news to Thompson.
“I can’t go to bed tonight knowing I let a rule slide,” Witters said. “It’s a hard thing to do, and it made me sick, to be honest with you.”
Thompson asked if this was all a joke and could not believe what was happening. Her lead was wiped out and then some.
“Every day is a learning process,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t expecting what happened today, but … it happens, and I’ll learn from it and hopefully do better.”
“It’s unfortunate what happened,” she added. “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.”
To her credit, Thompson bounced back enough to force a playoff with three massive birdies. Even so, Ryu seized the moment when she was told about the penalty on the 16th.
“I just cannot believe the situation,” Ryu said. “I didn’t even check the leaderboard. I thought Lexi played really, really well. I didn’t expect what happened to Lexi.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation. I didn’t expect it. I thought I’m well behind, so all I wanted to do was play my game.”
And play her game she did. Ryu birdied both the 18th and playoff hole to win her second major.
The issue here is not that Thompson violated the ball placement rule. What players like Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler have expressed discontent over is the fact that viewers at home are allowed to officiate the sport–let alone a major.
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h/t: espn.com, cnn.com, anainspiration.com