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.”

Video: Who is going to win the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont?

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How far over par could the winner be this week at the U.S. Open?

PGATOUR.com’s John Swantek and Noah Coslov talk about the course and the favorites and make their picks to win this weekend at Oakmont Country Club.

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Jordan Spieth of the United States and Rickie Fowler of the United States talk during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 13, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Jordan Spieth of the United States and Rickie Fowler of the United States talk during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club on June 13, 2016 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods to skip US Open at Oakmont

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For the third time in the past six years, the U.S. Open will go on without three-time champion Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods of the United States speaks to the media during a press conference in a practice round prior to the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on August 11, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods of the United States speaks to the media during a press conference in a practice round prior to the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on August 11, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Woods said on his website Tuesday that he is not ready for tournament competition and will skip the U.S. Open next week at Oakmont, along with his Quicken Loans National the following week at Congressional.

“While I continue to work hard on getting healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year’s U.S. Open and the Quicken Loans National,” he said. “I am making progress, but I’m not yet ready for tournament competition.”

Woods first missed the U.S. Open in 2011 when he was recovering from leg injuries. He missed in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2 while recovering from his first back surgery a week before the Masters that year.

He has not played since a tie for 10th in the Wyndham Championship in August. Woods had two more surgeries on his back after that, in September and October.

Meanwhile, his absence fueled speculation about when he might return, even though Woods repeatedly has said he does not know. Woods played five holes when he opened his golf course in Houston, and also was seen swinging a club at a junior clinic in South Carolina and at his media day at Congressional — three swings from 100 yards to the 10th green, all of them in the water.

Jack Nicklaus said last week at the Memorial he expects Woods to return.

“I think Tiger would have liked to have played this week,” Nicklaus said. “He’s just not ready.”

Since Woods was exempt from having to qualify because he won the 2008 U.S. Open, his spot will be filled by an alternate from the 12 sectional qualify sites, though it was not clear which one. The USGA compiles an alternate list that is based on how many spots each qualifying site was allocated and the strength of each field in determining the list.

When qualifying ended on Tuesday, and with Woods saying he will not play, 149 of the 156-man field for Oakmont was set.

The USGA set aside six spots for any players who crack the top 60 in the world ranking after this week. One of them will be William McGirt, who now is No. 44 in the world after winning the Memorial. If fewer than five more players get into the top 60, the extra spots also go to the main alternate list.

But if a player who qualified has to withdraw, his spot is taken by the alternate from his qualifying site.

Meanwhile, speculation on when or if Woods returns this year will resume after two weeks. The Greenbrier Classic, which he has played twice in the last four years when not dealing with injuries, is July 7-10. That’s one week before the British Open at Royal Troon.

The PGA Championship is two weeks after Troon, followed by the Travelers Championship, the John Deere Classic and the Wyndham Champion. Woods has never played the Travelers Championship and has not played at John Deere since he was a 20-year-old rookie.

After that, he would not be eligible for any PGA Tour event for the next six weeks during the FedEx Cup and Ryder Cup.

Video: Three holes-in-one on 16th hole in final round of the Masters

Davis Love III of the United States celebrates his hole in one on the 16th green as Webb Simpson of the United States looks on during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Davis Love III of the United States celebrates his hole in one on the 16th green as Webb Simpson of the United States looks on during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2016 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A hole-in-one at the Masters is a pretty special moment, even if your name is nowhere near the top of the leaderboard. ​In fact, as of Saturday, there had only been 15 aces on the par-3 16th hole in the 80-plus-year history of the Masters.

Yet Sunday at Augusta National saw not one … not two … but THREE holes-in-one at 16. And the third — in particular — is not to be missed.

(RELATED: Photos from Sunday’s incredible final round at Augusta)

First was Shane Lowry:

Davis Love III came next, approximately 30 minutes later:

And, finally, Louis Oosthuizen did the deed in amazing fashion, as his tee shot hit the green, rolled back and kissed off the ball of his playing partner before rolling miraculously into the cup.

Yes, Sunday will be remembered for Jordan Spieth’s back-nine collapse.

But three aces on the same hole? That’s pretty cool, too.

Video: Alex Cejka scores hole-in-one on 17th hole at PGA National

Alex Cejka of Germany lines up a putt on the eighth green during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa - Champions Course on February 25, 2016 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Alex Cejka of Germany lines up a putt on the eighth green during the first round of the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa – Champions Course on February 25, 2016 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The 17th hole on the Champion course at PGA National is the final hole of the notoriously challenging three-hole section known as the Bear Trap. Those three holes have claimed many victims over the years.

But not Alex Cejka on Day 1 of the 2016 Honda Classic.

Cejka aced the 177-yard par 3 in the glorious afternoon sunlight, setting off a roar from the crowd surrounding the small green.

Despite the late hole-in-one, the first round was an up-and-down affair for Cejka, who hovered around the projected cut line and stands at 1-over-par after an eagle-birdie finish to his day. Check out the full leaderboard here.

Jack Nicklaus’ take on 17?

The 17th is a par 3 that has been lengthened to 190 yards over the water and into a very small green that is bunkered left. This is a par 3 that will present a lot of problems; it always has in the past.

No problems on Thursday for Cejka.

Tiger Woods posts video to rebut rumors of his demise

Tiger Woods practices in a golf simulator. (Courtesy of @TigerWoods on Twitter)
Tiger Woods practices in a golf simulator. (Courtesy of @TigerWoods on Twitter)

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Tiger Woods has posted a video of him swinging a 9-iron in a golf simulator. His agent says the video was posted to rebut rumors on social media that he had taken a turn for the worse following two back surgeries last fall.

Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management said Monday that the rumors were ridiculous.

The video has a time stamp of Wednesday. It shows Woods, in shorts and golf shoes, taking one smooth swing accompanied by the words, “Progressing nicely.”

The rumors began with a Twitter account called “Secret Tour Pro” saying Sunday that Woods could no longer sit in a chair and spends most of the day lying down.

Steinberg says there’s still no timetable for his return. Woods has had three back surgeries in roughly 18 months.