Armchair golf fans stopped from "calling-in" on rules

Kristopher Nichols
December 12, 2017

On Monday, the USGA and R&A announced that calls or emails from viewers looking to report a rules violations will no longer be taken.

Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of the Rules of Golf and Amateur Status, says that the Local Rule, which goes into effect January 1, will be adopted by all the major men's and women's professional tours around the world.

This practice of television viewers calling in to allege rules infringements has been an ongoing issue in the sport, most notably at last year's ANA Inspiration - a Major on the women's circuit - when a two-shot penalty was handed out to Lexi Thompson for failing to replace her ball properly, which was picked up on slow-motion replay.

Thompson was informed of her fate by a rules official at the 12th hole, just what she needed after posting a bogey. All video reviews will be handled by one or more tournament officials assigned to the task.

Because of the unpopularity around the PGA and LPGA tours, the USGA relaxed the rule to only be enforced on plays that could be discovered only through deep video investigation.

"We see this today in social media and otherwise, and not just limited to golf, you see video that's clipped and manipulated", Pagel told Golf World. Enjoy watching the world's best players. Rather, it was the additional two strokes Thompson had to add to her Saturday score because she had failed to account for the original penalty in the first place.

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As part of the announcement, the governing bodies also approved a new local rule, available January 1, that eliminates the two-stroke penalty for filing an incorrect scorecard as a result of an infraction that a player was unaware of. After all, it should be rules officials, not fans, determining when a player has violated the rules of golf. Apparently, the violation occurred during the third round, and a viewer emailed the LPGA about it.

Thompson went on to lose the tournament in the playoffs and the incident caused massive outcry.

The Telegraph noted that Padraig Harrington, Camilo Villegas and Tiger Woods had all fallen victim to the calls of sharp-eyed viewers who brought up violations that may have gone unnoticed.

Now only the options available on site, including players, caddies, marshals, spectators and video from the television broadcast partner, will be considered when reviewing a rules violation.

According to that decision, which was not a rule, "so long as the player does what can reasonably be expected under the circumstances to make an accurate determination, the player's reasonable judgment will be accepted, even if later shown to be inaccurate by the use of video evidence".

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