Lexi Thompson was on course to win the ANA Inspiration for the second time to claim her second major title as she was leading by three shots, but things did not go as planned for the 22-year-old. A TV viewer's email had alerted officials of the violation she had committed which was a 1-inch ball placement error. As a result, her three-shot lead was wiped out by a four-shot penalty.
She birdied the 18th to force a play-off against South Korea's So Yeon Ryu, which she won at the first hole. Her five-under-par third-round 67 was changed to a 71. She was penalised two shots for the infraction, and a further two shots for signing an incorrect scorecard. She still had a chance to win but she missed a 20-foot eagle putt on the last.
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When she was informed of what she had done by an official, she responded by saying "Is this a joke?" After being assured it wasn't, she responded: "This is ridiculous."
"It is unfortunate with what happened, I did not mean that at all, I had no idea that I did it. I had to regroup myself, my caddie helped me out tremendously, we have a great relationship. I tried to gather myself and I made a great putt at 13," Golf Channel quoted Thompson as saying.
"But it's all to the fans, they helped me get through the rest of the round and I thank them a lot. I learned a lot about myself and how much I have in me. I wasn't expecting what happened today to happen and I will learn from it."
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The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) were quick to defend their actions and released a statement after they decided to hand her the penalty. It read:
On Sunday afternoon, the LPGA received an email from a television viewer that Lexi Thompson did not properly replace her ball prior to putting out on the 17th hole during Saturday's third round of the ANA Inspiration. She was immediately notified of the breach by LPGA Rules Committee in between holes 12 and 13 of the final round."
Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell also weighed in on the situation and while Woods agreed with the rules, he was disappointed with the fact that TV viewers were acting as officials while sitting at home. McDowell hoped that the rules in golf can be made a lot simpler to avoid such problems in the future.