Date: December 12, 2017
Author: Martin Blake

Rules call-ins are out


Golf’s authorities have called a halt to the controversy over rules infractions picked up by television viewers in the wake of this year’s Lexi Thompson furore.

The R and A and the United States Golf Association announced overnight that they would adopt new protocols from 1 January, 2018, under which one or more tournament officials will be assigned the task of monitoring video to pick up potential infractions.

But they say that they will not consider television evidence from outside sources any more, such as in the incorrect ball marking incident that cost Thompson so dearly in the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year in 2017.

The European Tour already has officials monitoring video coverage of its tournaments in case of rule breaches.

But in reality the various tours will continue to hear call-ins from viewers, and they cannot ignore instances of blatant cheating that are picked up. What is likely to happen in future is that call-ins of a minor nature will not be treated with such gravity.

The extra two-shot penalty for a player who is found later to have breached a rule is also on the way out, via a local rule that the tours will adopt from January (and then a rule of golf from the following year, when a series of changes are coming into force).

Thompson was docked two shots for not marking and replacing her ball in the same spot during at tournament in California, then another two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard.

The changes came after a working party of the R and A and the USGA made recommendations to the governing bodies and the main world tours.

Thomas Pagel, the USGA senior director of rules, said an original penalty would have remained in the Thompson case, but not the extra two-shot penalty which is deemed “unnecessary’’.

Golf has previously been the only game to allow television viewers any opportunity to influence the playing of a competition.

“The message is, have confidence in those conducting the event that if you’ve seen it, they’ve seen it, and there’s no need for anyone to call in what they think they have seen,” said Pagel.

Simon Magdulski, Golf Australia’s rules and handicapping director and also a member of the R&A’s rules of golf committee, said GA strongly supported the changes. “We believe they represent a further step forward in the development of the Rules,’’ said Magdulski.  “We also applaud the commitment of the R&A and USGA in their ongoing work to produce a modern Rules code for today’s spectators and players at all levels of the game which will take full effect on 1 January 2019.”