(Reuters) – An unrepentant Lexi Thompson again broke down in tears while discussing the controversial penalty that upended her title bid at the year’s first major three weeks ago and has since led to an expedited rule change.
Thompson, speaking to the media on Wednesday on the eve of the Texas Shootout in Irving, Texas, and for the first time since the ANA Inspiration in California, broke down when asked about the toughest part of the last few weeks.
“The hardest part was just going through it,” the 22-year-old American said before pausing for about 45 seconds as she struggled to regain her composure. “I don’t think I’ve ever played any better, and just for that to happen it was just kind’ve a nightmare.”
Thompson had six holes to play when her three-shot lead was wiped out by penalties for infringements committed the previous day and brought to the attention of officials by an e-mail from a television viewer.
The 22-year-old American, who went on to lose in a playoff, incurred a two-stroke penalty for playing her ball from the wrong place and an additional two strokes for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Thompson marks her balls with a dot and said she rotated her ball only to line up the dot to where her putter would make contact and that she did not intentionally put her ball back down in the wrong spot before making the short putt.
“I have seen the video and I can see where they’re coming from with it. It might have been, I guess, me rotating the ball,” said Thompson. “But like I said, I have always played by the rules of golf. … I have no reason behind it, I did not mean it at all.”
The incident, which derailed Thompson’s hopes of winning a second major, prompted golf’s ruling bodies to announce, with immediate effect, a rule change that will allow players to avoid penalty for a minor infraction that could not be reasonably discerned with the naked eye. [L4N1HX5AF]
The new rule does not, however, stop officials from considering incidents reported by television viewers, and does not really clarify the Thompson situation.
Thompson, despite being deeply affected, missed a chance to take complete ownership of the situation, which she could have done by clearly acknowledging that she had violated the rules, even if inadvertently.
Asked what she would do anything differently marking her ball in future, she could have said she would be more careful.
Instead, she replied: “I’m going to continue marking my ball,” a comment likely to keep the conversation alive.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)