Masters officials want to limit TV snitches

But changes can take effect only in 2019 so organisers have to hope to avoid a rules row

AUGUSTA • The organisers of the Masters said on Wednesday that they would support proposals to limit the use of video evidence to decide rules rows.

The use of "call-ins", where viewers contact tournament officials by e-mail or other media after seeing offences on television, has become the debate of the week.

Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, said that the outcome of the ANA Inspiration on Sunday should be reversed after Lexi Thompson was given a four-stroke penalty.

That was a result of a viewer's e-mail sent to the LPGA, the governing body, pointing out that she had incorrectly marked her ball the previous day. Despite the backlash from players, Masters officials will continue to use TV tip-offs as they are bound by the rules.

Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters' competitions committee, said Thompson's fate "broke our hearts" and backed plans to limit the public's influence on decisions.

The R&A and US Golf Association (USGA) published a draft overhaul of golf's sometimes arcane rules last month.

One of the suggested changes said that a player's "reasonable judgment will be accepted even if it was later shown to be wrong by other information such as video".

Ridley said: "We understand that there is a proposal that's being discussed that would limit the use of video evidence. We hope very much that an appropriate solution to this would be reached."

The new rules will not come in until 2019 and the Masters organisers will be desperate to avoid the sort of furore caused when Tiger Woods received a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop in 2013.

Then, the rules committee was alerted by a TV viewer but initially decided that Woods had done nothing wrong. Only when he said in an interview that he had done it on purpose was he summoned to a meeting the next day.

The integrity of the players has come under renewed scrutiny after Mickelson's incendiary remarks on Tuesday about players cheating when replacing marked balls.

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne denied there was any problem regarding players' honesty.

"I'm not aware of any, and I think golf remains a sport of great integrity," he said. "I don't know what he was referring to."

A rules row at the Masters would be a public relations disaster.

Last year's US Open final round descended into farce when Dustin Johnson was told on the 12th tee that he might receive a retrospective penalty after he made his ball move before he putted on the fifth. That raised the prospect of the US Open being won by a man who would be later stripped of the title.

Luckily for the USGA, Johnson's lead was so big that the penalty incurred was redundant.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'Masters officials want to limit TV snitches'. Print Edition | Subscribe