Lexi Thompson, through tears, addresses ANA snafu: ‘It was kind of a nightmare’

Lexi Thompson pauses after becoming emotional while speaking to reporters about her loss at the ANA Inspiration.

Lexi Thompson, speaking for the first time since losing the ANA Inspiration in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu earlier this month, likened her four-shot penalty experience to a nightmare.

“I played amazing that week,” Thompson said, through tears. “I don’t think I’ve ever played any better. Just for that to happen…it was kind of a nightmare.”

Thompson is in the field for this week’s Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, her first tournament since the ANA Inspiration. Thompson was assessed a pair of two-stroke penalties for hitting her ball from the wrong spot on the 17th hole and then signing an incorrect scorecard after the third round of the LPGA’s first major. Her violations, however, didn’t surface until the following day, when a TV viewer called the LPGA to report the potential penalties. She was told of the four-stroke penalty walking off the 12th green Sunday, and went from leading the tournament to trailing by two before her eventual playoff loss.

Following much discussion over social media, the USGA and R&A announced Tuesday an immediate change to the rules of golf in an attempt to protect players from being penalized for infractions that “could not reasonably have been seen with the naked eye.” Decision 34-3/10 does not eliminate viewer call-ins.

Thompson said in her press conference that while she could see where the rules officials were coming from, she stands by the fact that she has always played golf by the rules.

“The hardest part, just going through it,” Thompson said, breaking down, “I’ve worked my whole life to have my name on major championship trophies, especially that one. It’s a very special week for me with all the history behind it.”

Thompson said she never intended to mark her ball on the 17th hole during the third round, instead planning to tap in the short putt. But she said she talked herself into marking because she had missed many tap-ins previously. There was nothing in her line, and she referred the condition of the greens as “perfect.”

“I have no reason behind it,” Thompson said of her decision. “I did not mean it at all.

“I mark my ball with a dot and that’s where I focus my eyes on where I want to make contact,” Thompson said. “So when I went to mark it, I just rotated my ball to line up my dot to where my putter would make contact.”

The 22-year-old top-ranked American said she was overwhelmed by the support she received following the loss. She didn’t let it keep her from the game, playing a round with her brothers just two days after the ordeal.

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte said Wednesday that the USGA, per a source, has not ruled out changing the call-in rule. Many pros, reacting to the USGA and R&A change, thought the amendment could have gone one step further to eliminate viewer call-ins. Thompson is in that camp.

“Do I think it’s right?” Thompson said. “Not really, but it’s not my say.”

courtesy of Marika Washchyshyn (golf.com)

Dustin Johnson announces he’ll return to PGA Tour at Wells Fargo Championship

Dustin Johnson, who withdrew from the Masters, last played at the WGC Match Play at the end of March.

Dustin Johnson’s injured back must be feeling better.

The world’s No. 1 player said he’ll return to the PGA Tour at the Wells Fargo Championships at Eagle Point Golf Club from May 4-7.

The Wells Fargo Championship announced Johnson’s status Thursday.

Johnson was among the favorites to win the Masters last week after winning three straight tournaments. But a fall at his rental home hurt his back the day before the year’s first major was to start.

Johnson warmed up last Thursday on the Augusta National practice range and came out to the putting green near the first tee. But he headed off the course and withdrew with a bad back.

Johnson said then he had planned to take three weeks off following the Masters.

courtesy of AP news

Spieth and Sergio, polar opposites at Augusta National, converge for green jacket

Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth have played this Masters (and their careers) completely different.

One man came here at age 21, played the tournament of his life, and won. The other went to Medinah at age 19, played the tournament of his life, and finished second. This should not matter when Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia try to win the 2017 Masters, but of course it does.

Spieth will not play the final round in his green jacket, but he carries it in his mind wherever he goes. And Garcia cannot show up here Sunday and win the 1999 PGA or the 2002 Masters or the British Opens he could have won but didn’t. But he must make peace with those memories before he creates a better one.

This Masters leaderboard is like a menu where everything looks good: The Spieth was fantastic last time, the Rickie Fowler is always enjoyable, and another Adam Scott or Justin Rose might be OK if you’re into that sort of thing. But Spieth and Garcia are the most interesting golfers on the board.

For proof, consider Charley Hoffman’s second shot on 11 Saturday. Apparently, nobody else did. Hoffman hit a terrific shot from the left rough to 22 feet, and the crowd at Amen Corner barely noticed. I’ve heard louder cheers at divorce proceedings. Hoffman was leading the Masters at the time. Then Garcia hit his shot to 21 feet, and the crowd gave him his due.

Garcia is six under, tied for the lead with Rose, after holing a seven-foot par putt on No. 18. All week, he has looked and acted like a man who is not Sergio Garcia. Serene. Comfortable. At the 12th, where the flag was flapping but the tee felt windless, Garcia hit one of the best shots anybody hit there all day, to within 10 feet. And on 15, Garcia calmly waited for Hoffman to hit three shots before sinking his birdie putt.

Putting is supposed to keep Garcia down – well, putting and ghosts – but in 54 holes, Garcia has had just one three-putt. Spieth, the renowned putter, has had four.

After he finished the third round, Garcia talked about his good luck this week. Sure, he’s had some: On 13 Saturday, he hit a 4-iron that should have rolled back into the water but stopped on a bank, and on 10 Friday, he hit his tee shot into the trees, but it bounced back into the fairway.

But bad luck is a matter of perception. Garcia’s has changed. He is not dwelling on the perfectly struck balls that fly long because the wind died, and he has flicked off any potential annoyances like pieces of lint. He ignored the fans talking as he hit his tee shot on 17 Saturday. He seems at peace.

Garcia has not played any hole remotely like Spieth played No. 15 Thursday, when Spieth stood in the fairway, 100 yards from the pin, after two shots, and managed a nine. And that’s what makes Spieth’s current standing so impressive: he is four under, two shots off the lead.

Spieth can be volatile but he is such a compelling golfer because he is steely when he needs to be. He saved par from the sand on the par-three 4th, and he kept making nerveless pars until the putts started dropping.

Spieth came into the week answering a million questions about how he would handle the par-3 12th after his quadruple-bogey meltdown on Sunday last year. Actually, “a million questions” is not accurate – it was the same question a million times. He said he would be fine, but what he should have said was that he is 23 years old and already owns a green jacket, so who’s haunting whom here?

Fred Couples is a hero here, and in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for winning one Masters, his only major. Spieth has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and has, oh, two decades to add to that collection. He is too young and successful to lie awake at night, wondering what might have been, and he knows it.

Garcia? He is 37. One of his heroes, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, was long done winning majors by that age – and Seve won five. Another hero, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his two green jackets at age 28 and 33. Garcia has time, but not that much time.

He is at the age where he can throw his toys on the ground and cry, or realize they are pretty nice toys and relax. He has chosen to relax. Maybe it’s the influence of his girlfriend, Angela Akins – Garcia once admitted he went into a slump after getting dumped. Maybe it’s just age. But consider these two quotes:

Garcia, 2009, on Augusta National: “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia, 2017, on Augusta National: “It’s the kind of place that, if you’re trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week, and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

Jordan Spieth, 23, has been blessed with the wisdom of 37-year-old Sergio Garcia. He has everything in his bag except demons. And maybe this would all be different for Garcia if Tiger Woods had made a few bogeys on the back nine at Medinah in 1999, but then Tiger wouldn’t be Tiger, Sergio wouldn’t be Sergio, and we wouldn’t be here, hearing him say, “right now, I’m pretty calm.” The next 18 holes may define Sergio Garcia’s golf life. He seems fine with it.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg (golf.com)

Heading to the Masters? 10 ways to be a proper patron

It’s obvious when you first step foot on the grounds of Augusta National for the Masters tournament that a certain kind of behavior is expected out of the patrons. It’s quieter, except for those birds chirping, and the patrons seem to have a reverent attitude. I mean, this is like going to the Holy Church of Golf. All the caddies are wearing white, many of the women are in their Sunday best, and yes, the golfers do plenty of praying, especially on Sunday.  But if you’ve never been before, how do you know how you’re supposed to conduct yourself as a patron? It’s not like we’re born with this ability; it’s learned. Admittedly, the list below seems to be more about don’ts than do’s, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re fortunate enough to have credentials (i.e. tickets), just follow these guidelines, and you’ll be fine.

par 3 contest

1. Down in front

Okay, there’s an order to things here at Augusta National. Areas for patrons with chairs are even roped off, and patrons get there mighty early in the morning to claim their spot. If you’re wandering the course, trying to follow a particular group, you’ll need to be tall or find a nice hill or bleachers to watch the action. A great viewing area, by the way, is the bleachers behind the 12th tee, where you can see the 11th green, the par-3 12th and much of the par-5 13th, better known as Amen Corner.

Also, it’s a big no-no for patrons to run while on the grounds, whether it’s to get a front row spot to spy Jordan Spieth going for 13 in two or to get in line for a pimento cheese sandwich. You may be lucky to get away with a warning.

2. Leave your cell phones in the car

Or in the hotel room. I mean, they’re adamant about this. Forget the fact that almost all PGA Tour events allow cell phones on the course, even encouraging you to download the tournament app so you can follow the leaderboard, this is a tradition like no other, which means those mechanical scoreboards have done the job in the past and are doing the job today. And if you were planning to use your camera as a phone, fuhgeddaboutit. Even during practice rounds, when you can take your camera, you can’t bring those fancy Androids or iPhones that take better pictures than most $500 cameras.

3. Don’t wear a green blazer

If you’re going to be a good patron, you’ve got leave that green jacket in the car or at home or in the hotel room. Those are reserved for members and past champions. You don’t want to cause any confusion out there, impersonating Doug Ford or Condoleezza Rice. If you must wear a blazer, pick a plaid one from the tournament that follows the Masters.

Be sure to leave the denim at home and, while we’re at it, consider saving the Loudmouth Pants for another week.

4. Smoke the fattest cigar you can find

I don’t know if there’s a better place to smoke cigars than where most of the old legends used to smoke Lucky Strikes and Camels. (There’s a great Frank Christian picture of Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer waiting on the tee puffing away, during the 1966 Masters.) But please make sure it’s a good one, like a Cohiba, since everyone around you will be smoking it, too.

5. Shop, but not ’til you drop

Okay, if you’re going to the Masters, you have to bring back lots of souvenirs for everyone, but not too many. After all, if you’re one of the those patrons who comes out of the massive Masters merchandise building with $50,000 worth of memorabilia, it’s pretty obvious you’re hitting the secondary market for your own gain, and that ain’t cool.

Just buy your closest friends a gift. They love those $16 coffee mugs. Every golfer who has received one of those from me drinks out of it every day.

6. Save room for Masters Mini Moonpies

I mean, other than the Masters, when do you get to eat these things? I don’t even know where to find regular moon pies in the grocery stores anymore. They’ve had them at Augusta National forever. I think there’s marshmallow in them and there’s chocolate on the outside, a winning combo. It gives you energy to climb all those hills, which look way bigger in person than on TV. So don’t fill up on $1.50 pimento cheese sandwiches or Masters potato chips or Masters trail mix or Masters peanuts; save room for those sweet little saucers.

7. Arrive early and stay at Augusta late

What else are you going to do while in Augusta? Sleep in at your $300-a-night Super 8 crash pad? Breakfast at the Waffle House and dinner at Hooters (two of many blue collar staples on Washington Rd.)? Instead, take it all in. Get there at the crack of dawn and stay until the last putt is holed. And why not? Food is affordable at the Masters.

8. No ‘Mashed potatoes!’ please

No, “You da mans,” “Get in the hole” or any other lame comments. This is the Masters, man. A polite golf clap will do nicely and when they do something really spectacular — like when Tiger Woods holed out that pitch shot from behind the 16th green — you can let loose like any other golf tournament.

9. Adults: Lay off the autographs

If you’re over say, 25, no autographs. Leave that for the kids. We know what those 50-year-olds are likely doing with those autographed flags they’re supposedly bringing back for family and friends: cashing in with the collectible guys.

10. No scalping tickets outside the grounds

Okay, so you’ve got tickets for the whole week and you want to take a day off to play golf at the nearby River Club in North Augusta or Aiken (S.C.) Golf Club just 20 minutes away. Don’t even think about scalping those tickets near the grounds to pay for the green fees. This is punishable by jail, fine or even worse, permanent expulsion from Magnolia Lane.

courtesy of Mike Bailey (golfadvisor.com)