Video evidence of a rules violation no longer means a golfer automatically will be penalized.
In an effort to limit the sometimes harsh result of television reviews, golf’s ruling bodies have issued a new decision on the Rules of Golf that takes effect immediately.
Players can avoid a penalty if the violation could not be noticed with the naked eye. Rules officials also will eliminate penalties if they feel players made a reasonable judgment in taking a drop or replacing their golf ball on the putting green.
It is unclear if the reasonable judgment standard noted in Tuesday’s announcement would have exonerated Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration — the LPGA’s first major of the year — earlier this month.
Thompson was leading by two strokes on the back nine on April 2 when she received a four-stroke penalty — two for playing from an incorrect spot, and another two for signing an incorrect scorecard.
The infraction had occurred a day earlier, but officials were only alerted to it after being contacted via email by a TV viewer who noticed Thompson had incorrectly replaced her ball on a 1-foot putt on the 17th hole during the third round. She ended up losing in a playoff.
In 2016, the USGA and R&A had altered the rules to allow for a 2-stroke penalty in such scorecard signing situations if it was deemed the player could not have known about the penalty; prior to that, Thompson’s infraction would have resulted in disqualification.
The rules committee, after discussing the circumstances with the player and other members of the group, can now clear the player if it is determined that they did all that could be reasonably expected to make an accurate determination with a spot, a line of play or a drop.