Lexi Thompson: Rickie Fowler wants a stop to TV viewers affecting game

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Thompson's emotional reaction to costly penalty

Rickie Fowler says television viewers affecting golf tournaments "is not making the game look very good at all".

American Lexi Thompson, 22, was leading the ANA Inspiration on Sunday when she received a four-shot penalty after a TV viewer spotted an infringement and emailed officials.

Thompson ultimately lost the year's first women's major in a play-off.

"There's no question it should be ended," Fowler said of spectators being able to alert officials of breaches.

"I don't think you could find one player that would say otherwise."

Speaking in the build-up to this week's Masters in Augusta, the former world number four said he had sympathy for Thompson and that things need to change.

"There shouldn't be any outside contact, whether it's email or phone calls, whatsoever," he said.

"There's no other sport where people can call or email in or contact officials. These decisions are left up to officials. There are not people sitting at home dictating this, or in this case, having a large effect on the outcome of a major.

"I feel bad for Lexi. The way she handled it, the way she fought, was impressive."

Thompson issues new statement

Thompson, meanwhile, has issued a new statement saying professional golfers should accept the decision of officials "no matter how painful it is".

Thompson was leading by two shots in Sunday's final round when she was penalised for incorrectly replacing a marked ball in Saturday's third round.

The offence had been spotted by a viewer who emailed organisers. Thompson was penalised two strokes for putting the ball back in a different place and two for signing for an incorrect score.

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Watch how Thompson loses major after TV replay

Her five-under-par third-round 67 was therefore changed to a 71 which led to a play-off between Thompson and eventual winner Ryu So-yeon.

"What happened was not intentional at all - I would never do that purposely and I hope everyone knows that," Thompson said.

"The LPGA rules officials made a judgment call at the moment, and we as professional golfers must accept it, no matter how painful it is."

She added she did not want anything to detract from Ryu's victory, and also praised the fans who cheered her around the course after learning of her penalty.

"Hearing all the fans cheer me on after every shot, going to every tee, truly brought tears to my eyes every time."

Television scrutiny 'not fair' on best players

"It's not a fair system," was four-time major winner Laura Davies' verdict on the incident.

"Not everyone's shots are under scrutiny, just the leaders, so it's not a fair system," the Briton told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Golf has long since been the game of honour and there's no way in a million years Lexi has done that on purpose," Davies added.

"You could call her clumsy at worst but golfers rule themselves to a certain extent and that's the way it's always been."

Former PGA champion Rich Beem agreed.

"If Lexi was first out on Sunday morning and no cameras were on her, nobody would have seen it," he said.

"I don't understand how they can allow people to call in. I just find that absurd. Now you're telling me that you basically have two million rules officials.

"I don't think it should happen because you're only showing the people out there who are in contention. Every shot Tiger Woods plays the camera is on him. It's not the same playing field."

Former world number one Woods, who was penalised two shots for an incorrect drop during the 2013 Masters, earlier wrote on Twitter: "Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes."


Iain Carter, BBC golf correspondent

We have all screamed at screens having witnessed what we consider sporting injustice, but we have no part in altering the course of action in other sports.

But golf allows for sofa-seated witnesses to influence outcomes and it does no-one any favours.

In this case Ryu So-yeon is celebrating her second major title but no one is talking about her performance. Instead the player who finished second is gaining all the attention and sympathy.

Ultimately it was Thompson's fault that she lost but no-one wants to see any sporting event decided in such a way.

Golf's rules are under review. There are many good ideas under discussion for implementation in 2019.

Here's another one they should adopt - make sure the referee's decision is final, because there should be no place for interference from anyone else.

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