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LPGA still facing questions over Thompson penalty


    Lexi Thompson hits from sixth tee during the final round of the LPGA Tour ANA Inspiration golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. on April 2.

The Lotte Championship is set to begin Wednesday, 10 days and 2,500 miles from the stunning end of the ANA Inspiration, won by So Yeon Ryu in a sudden-death playoff with Lexi Thompson at the LPGA’s first major of the year.

Enough time and space, apparently, for some LPGA players to move on from any outrage over the four-stroke penalty given to Thompson coming off the 12th green on the final day.

Thompson was punished for mis-marking her ball on No. 17 the day before, a foul noticed by a TV viewer who emailed the LPGA about it Sunday.

Six golfers were asked about the incident Tuesday at a press conference ahead of the $2 million event at Ko Olina Golf Club, and all dodged the question. Later, away from the group, 2014 Lotte champion Michelle Wie opened up a bit, saying it all hit close to home.

She was disqualified from her first tournament as a professional, the 2005 Samsung World Championship, when she was 15. She took a drop and one-stroke penalty on the seventh hole of the third round and ended up fourth on Sunday. Then a writer said he thought Wie had dropped closer to the hole on Saturday. LPGA officials agreed and she was disqualified.

“I got DQ’d a couple times,” Wie said. “My first reaction was at least she (Thompson) wasn’t DQ’d.

“It was a shock when it happened to me because they told me in the middle of the golf course. A rules official came up to me and I was 10 under at the time. I had been seven shots behind and thinking it was kind of impossible, but all of a sudden I was three shots behind and thinking I had a chance. At that moment I was dumbfounded. I said, ‘I did what?’”

That was pretty much Thompson’s reaction. And Dustin Johnson’s at last year’s U.S. Open, when he was told on the 12th tee that he might be penalized for causing his ball to move on the fifth green. He was assessed two strokes after his round was over, but won anyway.

A few weeks after that, Anna Nordqvist got a two-shot penalty for inadvertently touching the sand with her club in a bunker during a playoff with Brittany Lang. The violation was also proven by TV replay. Nordqvist lost by two shots.

“I just want to know what number people are calling,” Wie said. “What is this mysterious number people are calling?”

Incredulity over the call even spilled over to The Masters, with Jack Nicklaus saying he believes penalties should not be assessed after a round is done.

No tour officials were available for comment Tuesday, but LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said on Fairways of Life with Matt Adams that the situation was “frustrating and embarrassing, it’s one of those situations where the penalty just doesn’t match the crime.”

But, Whan concluded, “for 67 years the LPGA has been following the rules as written” and he didn’t want to rush into changes simply because of the “anxiety and pain” after the ANA.

The field this week features 80 of the world’s Top 100 female golfers, including defending champion Minjee Lee. The 2012 U.S. Girls champion from Australia fired a bogey-free 64 in the final round last year to win by a shot. She played the final eight holes in 6-under par.

Wie, who is from Hawaii, is the only American to win Lotte in its first five years. Her last win came at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.

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