We Love Lexi, but Rules are Rules

Lexi Thompson (Photo courtesy Cobra Puma Golf)

AUGUSTA, Ga.

How ironic that here at Augusta National Golf Club — site of the year’s first major championship for men — much of the conversation has been focused on a woman.

Lexi Thompson.

Did she or didn’t she deserve four penalty strokes for her failure at the LPGA’s initial major, the ANA Inspiration, to properly replace her golf ball on the green?

If we play by the current rules, of course she deserved the penalty (two strokes for replacing the ball in the wrong place and two more for signing an incorrect scorecard). If these or any other rules are capricious or unfair, then we should change them. Period.

Golf is a complex game. It demands we play by rules that have evolved over hundreds of years. Otherwise we are a bunch of cheaters.

Don’t go crying for Thompson, who is 22 and will learn an invaluable lesson from this beatdown. She inadvertently broke the rules, but she never attempted to hide from that fact. She stood up like a man (er, woman) and took her punishment — as harsh as it might seem.

Lexi Thompson (Photo courtesy Cobra Puma Golf)
Lexi Thompson (Photo courtesy Cobra Puma Golf)

Sadly this incident reinforces the misguided notion that golf is a rich person’s sport with rules that few understand. We should be hopeful that golf will overcome such a stereotype. We should encourage the U.S. Golf Association to continue its campaign to simplify and clarify the rules.

Right now, however, we are obligated to play under the rules that have been established for one and all. On our debate team, let us add the names of Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus.

“I know a number of guys on Tour that are loose with how they mark the ball and have not been called on it,” Mickelson revealed. “I mean, they will move the ball two, three inches in front of their mark.”

Wow.

“First of all,” Nicklaus pointed out, “I was very careful how I marked the ball … the integrity of the game is that you do things the right way … on three occasions on the Tour, (I observed that) guys were cheating … we (Nicklaus along with one of his playing partners) took it quietly to the tournament director and got out of it. Nothing was ever said publicly about it … you bring it up quietly and try not to embarrass somebody and do it in a class manner.”

Interesting.

In Portland, Oregon, where i live, several dozen golf fanatics play a different course every Tuesday for eight months of the year (March through October). These golfers represent a wide range of handicaps. They are united, if you will, by the Rules of Golf.

The group’s leader is former golf journalist Howie Smith, who insists on playing strictly by the rules — all the rules. Every putt must be holed. Breaking any rule results in a penalty. This is golf by the book. This is the way to maintain peace and order. This is the way the game should be played.

While sympathizing with Lexi Thompson, no golfer should overlook the fact that adherence to the rules is the backbone of the game.