TV viewers are not referees or umpires . . .
Just when we thought that the penalty called on Dustin Johnson when he grounded his club in a desert trampled by spectators at the U. S. Open was the most ridiculous thing we've ever seen, or would ever see, we realize that, in golf, the sky's the limit when it comes to absurdity.
Yesterday's four-stroke penalty that cost Lexi Thompson the ANA Inspiration championship was so blatantly stupid we have to assume that this time, it can never be topped. But with these people, you never know.
Here are the salient idiotic points: (1) That a TV viewer can email the LPGA or any organization and impact an event is mind-boggling. Imagine a fan coming out of the stands in an NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball game and pointing out an infraction to an umpire or referee. He'd be led off in handcuffs.
(2) That the 'infraction', and I use the word loosely, can be tended to 24 hours after it occurs is criminal. When does the statute of limitations run out? A day, a week, a month?
(3) That the penalty for putting a ball back a millimeter from its original spot, obviously not on purpose, is four strokes borders on the insane. It's an infraction that happens 5,000 times a day among the golfers of the world and has no impact on the game whatsoever.
(4) That an official can come out on the course on the back nine of a major, relay a decision concerning something that happened the day before and destroy a golfer's concentration, also belongs in the criminal category.
That Lexi was able to hang in there with a long putt for par, then birdie the 18th to tie So Yeon Ryu before losing in the playoff, shows a great deal about the stuff she's made of. She made thousands of new fans in that final hour of riveting TV. But losing a victory, and a major to boot, is not something that can be taken lightly. And that doesn't include the $154,409 difference between her paycheck ($250,591) and Ryu's ($405,000).
There are three major changes in the rules that should come out of this incident. First, NO MORE TAKING CALLS OR EMAILS FROM TV VIEWERS WHO HAVE NO LIFE. Second, if someone relevant discovers the infraction, there should be a time limit for its implementation. Third, change the rules about a four-stroke penalty.
It was Nanki Poo, I recall, in 'The Mikado' many decades ago, who first alerted us to this all-time great credo: "Let the punishment fit the crime." Yes, let's.
MASTERS OLDIES RETURN - Russell Hendley became the 94th and final player invited to the Masters after his 20-under 268 won the Shell Houston Open by three strokes over Sung Kang yesterday. Hendley collected $1,260,000 so he shouldn't have any trouble paying for lodging in or around Augusta, where rooms go for an arm and a leg during the second week of April. Kang won't be coming, but he has $756,000 to buy snacks for himself and his family while he watches on TV.
Among Hendley's foes in the revered event will be a host of former winners who are currently playing on the Champions Tour, namely, Freddie Couples, Sandy Lyle, Vijay Singh, Mark O'Meara, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize, Lee Westwood, Trevor Immelman, Ernie Els, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal. It's always interesting to see which of the old-timers can make the cut and Couples and Langer are the two best bets this time.
There is nary a Gator within hailing distance of Augusta, but both Seminoles - Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka - will get their chance for stardom. Berger prepped for the occasion by finishing all alone in fifth place in Houston with scores of 70-67-71-67-275, 13 under par. He earned a nice check for $280,000 plus 110 FedEx Cup points.
Two Gators made the cut, Billy Horschel with even-par 288 ($15,750) and Matt Every (continuing his rebound) with plus-2 290 ($14,560). Brett Stegmaier surprisingly bowed out early with 75-86.