Stop Snitching: Golf Should Be Done With Armchair Officials

Over the weekend, LPGA golfer Lexi Thompson lost the ANA Inspiration Championship in a playoff with So Yeon Ryu. The story of the day, however, was how the playoff even came to be.

On the 12th hole during Sunday’s final round, holding a two-stroke lead, Thompson was informed that she was being assessed a four-stroke penalty…for an infraction that happened in SATURDAY’S round. How, you ask, is that even possible? Because of golf’s ridiculous rule allowing TV viewers to notify officials of infractions.

You see, some viewer somewhere in the world, presumably watching on DVR or catching highlights based on the timing, noticed that Thompson had misplaced her ball on the green after picking it up to clean it. This person, for reasons I will never understand, felt the need to notify officials of the misplaced ball. After review, they determined an infraction had occurred and informed Thompson, in the middle of her next round, of the penalty: two strokes for the misplaced ball and two more for signing an incorrect scorecard that she had no way of knowing was incorrect. The absurdity of this hurts my head.

Why anyone would feel the need to take time from their day to do this sort of thing is beyond me. But worse is that they even have the opportunity to do so. Imagine if any other sport allowed armchair officials to call in and report infractions. It would be absolute chaos.

It’s preposterous that both the PGA and LPGA Tours, handing out seven-figure purses, can’t muster the resources to independently officiate their sport. Instead, they are willing to leave it up to some schlub elbow deep in a bag of Doritos to make determinations affecting the outcomes of their events.

As if the ludicrousness of this isn’t enough in itself, it allows for an unequal application of the rules. Certain players—Tiger Woods, for example—or players who are at the top of the leaderboard receive a disproportionate amount of the TV coverage. This opens them up to extra scrutiny from the world’s stay-at-home golf police. Meanwhile, lesser known players or players hovering around the cut-line find themselves free from this burden. If this is all about “fairness,” it seems to be missing the mark.

Further complicating the issue is the myriad of unsavory motivations that one may have for undertaking the diabolical practice of “armchair official.” Perhaps someone is an avid fan of a golfer who is in contention, so naturally, said person pays extra attention to that golfer’s competition. Worse, maybe someone has a wager on a particular outcome, so he or she is paying extra attention to golfers and shots that could affect the outcome of that bet. Again, we have drifted away from a fair and even application of the rules and into a sea of personal motivations for targeting a particular golfer or group of golfers.

It's 2017. With the amount of money and technology that are flowing through the sports we love, it is asinine that people sitting on their couch can hold so much sway over the outcome of an event. The practice is a can of worms just waiting to be spilled. There have been calls to put a statute of limitations on violations reported by armchair officials, but it's not enough. Golf prides itself on being the most ethical of all the sports. It’s time to back that claim up and let it speak for itself. Do away with the ridiculousness that is armchair officials.

If the player, the player’s partner, either caddy, the tour official with each group and even the fans in attendance don’t call out an infraction, then it’s time to let it go. If that isn’t enough, then the powers-that-be have more than enough resources to assign an official to each player or to find creative ways to implement technology to enforce the rules. No one wants some tattle-tale affecting the outcome of a major, and this past weekend’s incident is a bad look for the game of golf.

It’s time to stop snitching.

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