Golf to make it tougher for cranky fans to phone in rules violations

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Lexi Thompson reacts to her chip shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the QBE Shootout golf tournament at Tiburón Gulf Club in Naples, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. | Logan Newell/ AP)

Players no longer will be penalized two shots for an incorrect scorecard if they were not aware of a rules violation when they signed their card.

The USGA and R&A also will no longer respond to most TV viewers’ calls during the tournament.

The changes are part of a local rule effective Jan. 1.

Rescinding the scorecard penalty, famously applied to Lexi Thompson at the LPGA Tour’s first major last April, is part of a broader standard for using video.

Thompson had a three-shot lead in the final round of the ANA Inspiration when a TV viewer noticed she had improperly replaced her golf ball on the green during the third round. She was penalized two shots for the infraction. Because that would have made her score two shots higher, she received an additional two-shot penalty for the scorecard error.

That became a four-shot penalty in the final hour of the tournament. Thompson rallied, but eventually lost to So Yeon Ryu in the first hole of a playoff.

Leaders from all major tours and organizations began meeting later that month.

The USGA and R&A are leading a group of top officials who are modernizing the Rules of Golf. The proposal currently is under public review and expected to be effective in 2019. The two-shot scorecard error would have been eliminated under the proposed rules.

The USGA and R&A also said only video from the telecast — not smart phones or other video from fans — can be used as evidence of a violation. It also said it would make it tougher for fans to call in if they think they see a violation on TV.

The change also means each tournament will assign one or more officials to monitor the video broadcast and help identify any violations or rules issues that might arise.

The PGA Tour has done this from time to time, but found that it often loses the use of a rules official on the course as he sits in a room watching TV for a violation that is rare over the course of the year.

According to the video review protocol for tournaments on TV, officials will not monitor or review any calls from views at home. That doesn’t eliminate TV viewers from noticing violations — such as the incorrect drop by Tiger Woods at the 2013 Masters — but tournament officials will not have a method for fans to call, email or text.

In the case of the Masters, the viewer was a former rules expert who knew who to call at the course.

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