Another massively controversial rules issue struck the world of golf on Sunday evening (2 April), with Alexis "Lexi" Thompson dramatically denied her second LPGA major title victory at the 2017 ANA Inspiration tournament after being handed a four-shot penalty for an infraction committed the previous day that was retrospectively spotted and reported by a television viewer via email.
The American, a champion in 2014, held a two-shot lead during the final round of the year's first major when she was told - remarkably while walking between the 12th and 13th holes at Mission Hills Country Club - that she would incur an initial two-stroke penalty after being found to have incorrectly re-spotted her ball after marking it before a one-foot putt at the par-three 17th on Saturday. Further punishment came as a result of her apparently turning in an incorrect third-round scorecard.
"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 the 17th hole during Saturday's third round of the ANA Inspiration," the LPGA said in a statement. "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. 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."
Speaking to the Golf Channel, Thompson said: "It is unfortunate with what happened, I did not mean that at all, I had no idea that I did it. I had to regroup myself, my caddie helped me out tremendously, we have a great relationship. I tried to gather myself and I made a great putt at 13.
"But it's all to the fans, they helped me get through the rest of the round and I thank them a lot. I learned a lot about myself and how much I have in me. I wasn't expecting what happened today to happen and I will learn from it."
A disbelieving and tearful Thompson dropped back to second place as the result of those penalties, regathered her composure and immediately responded with a birdie to regain a share of the lead. She eventually forced a play-off with another birdie that came after a missed eagle putt at 18 that would have seen the 22-year-old claim an extraordinary victory, only for So Yeon Ryu to win courtesy of a birdie on the first play-off hole.
It was the South Korean's second major success following her win at the 2011 US Women's Open. Minjee Lee, Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen tied for third place.
Such a contentious episode unsurprisingly drew a furious reaction on social media, with Tiger Woods among those to issue public support for Thompson and rail against the seemingly preposterous notion that viewers should be able to call in rulings.
"Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes," he said. "Let's go Lexi, win this thing anyway."
Defending champion Lydia Ko, who tied for 11th place in Rancho Mirage, California, voiced her to desire for a swift rule change.
"Unbelievable," she tweeted. "Really need to CHANGE and do something about people being able to call in."