Rozner: Sofa refs finally lose power over pro golf

 
 
Updated 12/11/2017 7:59 PM
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  • Lexi Thompson high five fans as she walks to the 18th green in tears during the final round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament after she was assessed a four-stroke penalty at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Sunday, April 2, 2017. Thompson forced a playoff, but lost to So Yeon Ryu.

    Lexi Thompson high five fans as she walks to the 18th green in tears during the final round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament after she was assessed a four-stroke penalty at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Sunday, April 2, 2017. Thompson forced a playoff, but lost to So Yeon Ryu.

The days of the couch vigilante are over.

Well, in professional golf, at least.

Yeah, if you're one of those who's been sitting at home and hoping to catch a player brushing a single grain of sand in the bunker, or mismarking a ball by a fraction of an inch on the green, you can find something better to do with your weekend.

And it's far past time for such a reasonable conclusion.

There is no other major sport where you can officiate from home, and golf finally did the right thing and eliminated that possibility with a Monday announcement that has killed this insidious disease forever.

It should have never come to this, but the tipping point was the ruling that cost Lexi Thompson a championship in April.

In the LPGA's first major of the season, Thompson had victory safely in hand when she was walking to the 13th tee on Sunday and was informed -- rather casually -- that she would be docked 4 strokes for a violation that occurred on the 17th green -- wait for it -- on Saturday.

Thompson had marked her ball from the side to avoid stepping in her competitor's line. This is something players do all the time out of pure sportsmanship and there are probably hundreds of infractions each tournament if you consider mismarking a ball by a quarter-inch to be a penalty.

Without robots and lasers, no player can be 100 percent certain that a mark is perfect, though the intention -- as was the case with Thompson -- is always to get it right.

If that weren't ridiculous enough, an email from a viewer a day later changed the tournament, many hours after cards were signed and scores recorded.

What sport changes a score a day later because of replay review? Should only the stars be penalized because they are always on TV? And what if the email arrived on Tuesday?

Thompson lost 4 strokes to the infraction and signing an incorrect score card.

Insanity.

Starting Jan. 1, after the announcement Monday by governing bodies USGA and R&A, along with the PGA of America and all major men's and women's tours, they will no longer accept inquiries from Barcalounger barristers.

Every tournament will have at least one official assigned to monitor the broadcast to help with any judgments, said Thomas Pagel, the USGA senior director of rules.

"The (tournament) committee will take on the responsibility of monitoring in real time," Pagel said. "Essentially, everything you're seeing at home, we've already seen it. We're going to apply the rules accordingly."

Just as crucial, the USGA and R&A have added the "Local Rule," eliminating the punishment for failing to include a penalty on the score card when the player is unaware of the infraction.

Said Pagel, "There may be things that the committee -- after the score card is returned -- will come back and say, 'You know what? We missed that. We didn't catch that as it happened. We're human.' The committee will accept that responsibility."

After the Thompson incident, the USGA announced that a "player's reasonable judgment" will be acceptable when video evidence shows a player might not have taken precisely the nearest point of relief.

There is also the "naked-eye standard" now in place that would have saved Dustin Johnson on the green at the 2016 U.S. Open, Anna Nordqvist in the bunker at the 2016 U.S. Women's Open and Thompson this year, when no one would have known of the problem without super-zoom, video technology.

The newest "couch rule" would have saved Tiger Woods at the 2013 Masters, when an overnight penalty probably cost him the tournament.

Archaic USGA rules have long tormented frustrated pro golfers to the point where this year at Erin Hills they were openly ripping the rules committee and wondering why they were prisoners of such utter nonsense.

To that extent, and at least in the case of a few ridiculous rules, it will be a happy new year on the PGA Tour.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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