Top golfers blast an odd rule that lets viewers call the shots
Viewers calling in rule violations and affecting the outcome of major tournaments would be a thing of the past if players competing at this week’s US Masters have their way.
World No8 Rickie Fowler and PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker are the latest to criticise the controversial rule a day after American Lexi Thompson lost 2017’s first LPGA Major after a surprising penalty.
"There’s no other sport where anybody can call in and say: ‘Oh that was a foul.’ It just doesn’t happen and I don’t know why [golf] is the exception," Walker said.
"Nobody gets call-ins and outs in tennis. It just doesn’t happen and I think we need to change that."
Thompson had six holes to play when her three-shot lead was wiped out by a four-shot penalty for an infringement that was committed the previous day and was brought to officials’ attention by an e-mail from a television viewer. She incurred a two-stroke penalty for playing her ball from the wrong place and an additional two strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard. She went on to lose in a playoff.
Fowler said he was surprised the rule had not been changed long ago and one would be hardpressed finding any golfer who would say otherwise.
"Once you sign your scorecard, that’s kind of it.
"I feel like, you know, it’s somewhat like when you look at if something were to come up Monday after the tournament, the tournament’s done," said Fowler.
"There shouldn’t be anyone outside of the officials being able to make this call."
The effect of armchair-rule officials has come up in the past, but never has it had such a dramatic effect on the outcome of a major event.
Spain’s Jon Rahm — who is making his Masters debut this week after a stellar start to the season — said that some of golf’s rules were hard to interpret, but that if it was the right call, then one player was always going to be hurt.
"I feel bad for Lexi, because maybe she would have won the tournament if that hadn’t happened," said world No12 Rahm.
"But a 10-inch putt, I feel like, [she] could have left it alone, she’s not going to miss it anyway, whether it’s a millimetre right or left."