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Cragun's 2016

Local Golf
July 22, 2017

The Psychic Asks, "Will TV Viewers And Drones Replace Rules Officials?"
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Lexi Thompson being told of her 4-shot penalty during the  ANA Inspiration Championship.
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Lexi Thompson being told of her 4-shot penalty during the ANA Inspiration Championship.
By R.J. Smiley

As a golf fan, the Psychic loves the nail biting drama of international match play golf events like the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup. The Psychic watches the LPGA's first Major of 2017 with keen interest. Stacy Lewis, the little girl form Arkansas, and Lexi Thompson are his favorites. They are a lock for two of the twelve spots on Juli Inkster's Solheim Cup Team. Stacy was never a factor in the ANA Inspiration event in Palm Desert, so the Psychic was focused on the "match play type" duel unfolding between Suzann Pettersen and Lexi Thompson during the final round.

The Psychic marveled at the beautiful setup of the athletic Swede. He questioned the unorthodox follow through of Lexi who spins-out with a tiptoe, stiff legged finish. But, he realizes there are few women golfers who have the imagination and shot making ability of Thompson. Could these two world-class golfers be in the final pairing of Singles in the Solheim Cup? What a match that would be.

Then it happened! Between the 12th and 13th hole, a rules officials informed Lexi that four penalty strokes had been assessed for a breach of rule 20-7c (playing from the wrong place) and 6-6d (signing an incorrect scorecard) on the 17th hole of Saturday's round.

With tears in her eyes, the emotional Lexi finished the tournament with class. Finishing runner-up, despite four penalty shots, leaving her eagle putt to win hanging on the lip on the final hole.

Like most golf fans, the Psychic sat staring blankly at his giant flat screen as a dictionary of adjectives rolled through his mind. Thinking back about all the friendly weekend matches, club championships and his few attempts to qualify for State Golf Association Championships, the Psychic could never recall ever hearing of a player being penalized for improperly replacing the ball on the putting green.

Where is the fairness in golf? Television cameramen only cover the leaders. What if the infraction occurred with an earlier group with no camera as a witness?

With a cloud of controversy floating in his brain, the Psychic uncovered his crystal ball as he adjusted his worn turban. Immediately his focus was drawn into the depth of the sphere. The Psychic noticed a swarm of mosquitoes hovering above a wooded area in the distance. His concentration intensified as a humming sound filled his study. The sound was not the familiar buzz of a swarm of those pesky critters that seem to find every exposed area of flesh. This was a more high-pitched hum; a sound that he could not identify.

Suddenly, he noticed that the mosquitoes were extremely large. No! Not mosquitoes, but drones equipped with tiny cameras hovering above a golf course. The TV camera towers and large galleries left no question in his mind; it was a TOUR event. What could be the meaning of spies in the sky?

From the far side of the crystal ball came another picture, a room filled with rules officials with their eyes glued to computer monitors. They were viewing the monitors, like Big Brother, attempting to catch minor rules infractions.

Then a cell phone chimed. The call was directed to the rules official, who, along with her drone, was following a member of the group playing the 8th hole. After a brief conversation the rules official reversed the videotape on her monitor to a bunker shot on the 7th. The caller had detected a grain of sand moving during address. With zoom-in-stop-action video technology, a violation was detected. "Janie Jones grounded her club in the bunker on hole 7," the rules official shouted. "A violation of Rule 13-4b, a two stroke penalty."

In a rare occurrence the Psychic jerked back from the brightly lighted crystal ball and shouted, "This goes too far!" Television viewers and cameras have no place in making decisions on the golf course. Golf is a gentlemen's game. Let it remain so. Rules officials are there to interpret the rules and make decisions on drop areas, line of site and out of bounds. If high definition cameras were used only one ball in one hundred is replaced in exact same position from which it was removed. In a round of golf each player would be accessed a penalty on over 90% of the holes!" Then the Psychic realized, he was shouting to no one.

The Psychic quickly covered his clear marble and stomped off to retrieve an adult beverage.

Since the Psychic had the emotional outburst, the USGA and the R&A have proposed rules changes, involving intent, to clear up these situations. As the Psychic looks into his crystal globe, the "Lexi Rule" is being debated far into the future. Tiny drones with powerful cameras are everywhere.

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