Lexi Thompson Rules Penalty: Who was to blame?

Lexi Thompson rules penalty

We take a look at the Lexi Thompson rules penalty that ended up costing her the first major title of the year and discuss who was to blame

The act of marking your golf ball should be one of the least contentious rules in the game. However, in the first women’s major of the golfing year, the ANA Inspiration, there was a Lexi Thompson rules penalty that has become golf’s latest rules-related controversy. During the third round, television pictures clearly showed that she did not replace her ball onto the same spot she had marked it from.

The Full Story: Lexi Thompson Penalised Four Strokes To Lose Major

The incident only came to light however when a viewer highlighted the issue and actions were taken during the following round. Two penalty shots were added for the original infringement and then an extra two were added as she had signed for a score higher than the one she had actually taken.

At the very least, it was a messy incident but was Lexi Thompson to blame or was she treated harshly by the inflexible nature of our rules.

Watch: Tearful Lexi Thompson Signs Autographs and signs pictures

Lexi Thompson Rules Penalty: GM View

There are two elements to what happened so it makes sense to deal with them separately. Firstly, the images show how, as she addresses the ball, she decides to bend down, mark it and replace it. The close-up view of what took place is fairly damning. The ball does not go back onto its original spot. Having seen it a few times, we don’t think this is a clear-cut case of either trying to move the ball closer to the hole or, as we think is the more likely theory, her moving the ball to the side to avoid a spike mark or imperfection. The close-up view makes probably makes it look worse than it was. It may have just been carelessness. Was she right to be penalised? Absolutely. Did she cheat? Only Lexi Thompson herself really knows the answer to that. The self-policing nature of golf, even at the highest level, will mean that golf will always face incidents like this. Did she purposefully break the rules? We think it is hard to say she definitely did.

The second element relates to the trial-by-TV aspect to this incident. The infringement only came to light once a TV viewer spotted it and raised the alarm. That she was only made aware of it half way through her final round, and as such was given an extra two-stroke penalty for signing for the wrong score the previous day is the second major sticking point. Was she harshly treated? Well, this rule was actually changed in 2015 to prevent players from being disqualified in this scenario. However, this incident still makes it look unfair. How can you be guilty of signing for a wrong score when you are unaware that you have broken a rule? Adding the original penalty seems fair enough but hitting her with an extra two shot penalty is incredibly harsh. With a new set of revisions to the Rules of Golf our for 2019, now seems like a good time to add that one to the list. Whatever happens, golf's ruling bodies will be taking note.

Neil Tappin

In July 2023, Neil became just the 9th editor in Golf Monthly's 112-year history. Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he has also presented many Golf Monthly videos looking at all areas of the game from Tour player interviews to the rules of golf. 

Throughout his time with the brand he has also covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSR2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X