AUGUSTA, Ga. — Despite this being the most intense, exciting and perhaps busiest week of his year, Justin Thomas will take time out for something that has absolutely nothing to do with the Masters. He will text or call LPGA player Lexi Thompson to say what a travesty it was that she lost a major championship by email.
Thomas was not alone in that opinion at Augusta National, where practice rounds were halted by lightning. The storm at the women’s ANA Inspiration in California still raged. It was a first: The LPGA was the lead topic at the Masters. But that just revealed the depth of feeling about Thompson having been assessed four penalty strokes after an anonymous viewer emailed tour officials Sunday about an infraction that occurred a day earlier.
“She deserved to win and just because someone is sitting at home, gets behind a computer and decides to send an email to this mysterious email address and can change an outcome is bizarre to me,” said Thomas, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season and the son of a former PGA of America board member.
Jimmy Walker, winner of the most recent men’s major, the 2016 PGA Championship, said: “I didn’t actually see what happened, but it sounded like it was a really, really bad raw deal. There’s no other sport where anybody can call in and say, ‘Oh, that was a foul.’ ”
The feeling was strong among golfers who were at Augusta National, and one who was not. After Thompson was assessed the penalty, nearly 24 hours after the fact, Tiger Woods tweeted: “Viewers at home should not be officials wearing stripes. Let’s go Lexi, win this thing, anyway.”
Woods, who announced Friday he will not play this week, had his own video review dustup right here at the 2013 Masters. A viewer — later identified as Champions Tour golfer David Eger — called in to say Woods had taken an illegal drop after having hit in the water during his Friday round. It became a huge issue, resulting in Woods being penalized two shots before his Saturday round.
Thompson lost the lead Sunday because of the four penalty strokes, briefly went back in front, birdied No. 18 to tie but lost to So Yeon Ryu on the first hole of a playoff. Rickie Fowler said: “I feel bad for Lexi. Everything [on social media] was saying how well she did handle it. She’s got plenty more majors in her future.”
Golfers in the Masters have no quibble with the rule that Thompson did break, she did not replace her ball correctly after having marked it on a green. Nor do they deny she deserved a penalty. They did reheat the debate over whether it is fair that golfers who are on TV are scrutinized over those who are not. And they vigorously criticized the fact that there is no statute of limitations after a day.
Thomas, who went to the University of Alabama, compared it to calling in to correct the referee a day after the national championship football game, overturning the Crimson Tide’s loss to Clemson.
“I know the competitor she is, she’s probably really upset and heartbroken,” he said of Thompson. “At some point this week, I’ll reach out and just say something. Yeah, it was a bummer.”