Lexi Thompson loses lead in major after TV viewer calls in rules violation

Lexi Thompson cries in a towel as she walks to the 18th green after her second shot during the final round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club on April 2, 2017 in Rancho Mirage, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Lexi Thompson was positioned for a smooth landing into the year’s first LPGA major, up three strokes on the field with six holes remaining.

Then, a television viewer intervened via email to inform officials about a day-old rules violation. The infraction occurred on the 17th green Saturday, when she replaced her coin mark with the ball but put it maybe an inch out of position.

As small as the mistake was — tournament officials hadn’t seen it — the penalty was equally severe. Thompson was assessed a four-stroke penalty; two for incorrect ball placement, two for signing an incorrect scorecard (which, at the time, everyone believed was correct).

Thompson was alerted to the violation and punishment by a rules official on her way to the 13th tee at the ANA Inspiration.

“Is this a joke?” Thompson asked. Assured it wasn’t, she said, “This is ridiculous.”

Thompson teed off at 13 in tears. She had gone from a seemingly comfortable cruise to her second career major victory to knocked out of the lead.

She persevered and forced a playoff with three birdies down the stretch. But So Yeon Ryu birdied the playoff hole to take the trophy — plus $155,000 more than Thompson collected.

“It’s unfortunate what happened,” Thompson said. “I did not mean that at all. I didn’t realize I did that. I felt strong through the finish, and it was great to see the fans behind me.”

Thompson’s support extended to the digital realm, where Tiger Woods immediately offered his thoughts on Twitter. 

Even through tears, Thompson took the heartbreak as well as anyone could.

“Every day is a learning process,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting what happened today, but … it happens, and I’ll learn from it and hopefully do better.”