Lexi Thompson lost the first LPGA Major of the season in horrendous fashion on Sunday after an email from a television viewer to the LPGA saw her take a 4-stroke penalty.
With six holes remaining in the ANA Inspiration, Thompson was cruising to victory with a 3-stroke lead. The event then descended to farce, as a television viewer emailed the LPGA informing them of a blunder on the American's part during the third round a day before.
It turned out that, on Saturday, Thompson had incorrectly replaced her ball ahead of a short putt on the 17th. The crux of the issue, according to the LPGA rules officials, was that you couldn't see the coin when the ball wass marked, but when Thompson placed the ball back on the ground, the coin was visible.
Via Business Insider, here is the incident in question.
Despite not seeing the infraction at the time, the LPGA - after a lengthy deliberation following the email from a viewer at home - imposed two separate two-stroke penalties on the 22-year-old.
One of the penalties was for not playing the ball from the correct spot. The second penalty was for filing an incorrect scorecard.
Thompson bogeyed the 12th hole before she was informed of the penalties, with the tv audience having already discovered that she had dropped four shots. As such, the bogey on 12 and the four dropped shots from penalties, saw Thompson drop to two strokes back with six to go.
After her bogey on 12, Thompson was informed of the penalties by an LPGA rules official, responding: "Is this a joke?" Unfortunately, it wasn't.
An official LPGA statement read:
On Sunday afternoon, the LPGA received an email from a television viewer, saying 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. The claim was quickly investigated by LPGA Rules officials.
After a full review, it was determined that Thompson breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty under Rule 16-1b. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three. She was immediately notified of the breach by LPGA Rules Committee in between holes 12 and 13 of the final round.
Incredibly, Thompson was able to battle back to a tie with So Yeon Ryu, forcing a sudden death playoff. The South Korean, however, prevailed.
Prior to the 18th hole, the gallery - now fully aware of the ramshackle circumstances surrounding Thompson's penalties - began chanting her name. Thompson fought back the tears and high-fived the crowd, who like those at home couldn't quite comprehend the situation.
Thompson released a statement on her Instagram following the controversy explaining she wasn't aware of her error, and thanking fans for their fervent support in what was obviously a difficult moment.