Golf’s ruling bodies have acted to prevent television viewers from revealing evidence of wrongdoing on tour from the start of 2018.
After a year in which errors by players—Lexi Thompson being the most high-profile of them—were highlighted by eagle-eyed viewers watching from the comfort of their homes, a change in the rules of the game from New Year’s Day has been instigated by the USGA and the R&A, the two regulators of the sport.
A golf rule change
No longer will viewers be able to notify tournament organisers when they spot an infringement made by a player whilst watching on television. It will be up to officials to spot things or let mistakes pass without punishment.
“What this is doing is making sure that when it comes to the administration of the rules and administration of the event, those things lie with the players and the committee,” said Thomas Pagel, USGA senior director of the Rules of Golf. “The committee [at each tournament] will take on the responsibility of monitoring in real time.
“If someone at home sees it, we’ve seen it as well. We don’t need that outside assistance from the viewers. We want you to be fans, enjoy watching the competition and have confidence in those who are in charge of the event.”
The golf rule change may have come about in light of what happened to LPGA Tour star Thompson when she incurred a four-shot penalty and lost out on a victory at the ANA Inspiration in April after a play-off.
Thompson was deemed to have marked her ball incorrectly during the previous round after a television viewer contacted the LPGA the following day. Thompson was hit with a four-shot punishment as a result, two for the indiscretion and two more for signing for the wrong score.
The good news for golfers is that the two-stroke penalty for signing the scorecard incorrectly has also been eradicated. It made obvious sense, given that a penalty incurred would always result in the scorecard being wrong. A local rule will be used to eliminate the scorecard penalty in 2018 before it is written into the Rules of Golf officially from 2019.
Jon Rahm also courted controversy during his victory in the Irish Open when he marked his ball on the putting surface, avoiding the line of playing partner Daniel Im when doing so. Rahm replaced his ball incorrectly and gained marginal distance closer to the hole. European Tour officials deemed that he had made a “reasonable judgement” in the incident and he narrowly avoided a penalty. The reasonable judgement term was brought in following the Thompson controversy.
Thompson reacted to the news and posted a statement on social media saying: “I was informed of the two rule changes this morning from my management team at Blue Giraffe Sports. I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf.
“In my case, I am thankful that no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”
See also: Key Dates and Golf Events in 2018