Augusta - Phil Mickelson called for Lexi Thompson to be
awarded the LPGA's ANA Inspiration title despite a rules violation discovered
by a television viewer that led to a four-stroke penalty.
Mickelson, a five-time major winner seeking his fourth green
jacket when the year's first men's major tournament opens on Thursday, said the
decision to inflict the punishment for a day-old violation should be reversed.
"To have a tournament be decided like that, with all
the scenarios going around, as far as viewers calling in, as far as it being a
one foot putt with really no advantage - just a little bit of loose marking if
you will, something that happens all the time, intentionally and unintentionally - I just think it should be reversed," Mickelson said.
"I think that she should be given the trophy."
Thompson was hit with a four-stroke penalty with six holes
remaining in Sunday's final round of the year's first women's major at Rancho
Mirage for improperly replacing the ball on a one-foot putt, an infraction in
Saturday's third round spotted by a television viewer.
Despite being distraught at seeing her three-stroke lead
erased, Thompson fought back to force a playoff before falling to South Korea's
"How in the world she did what she did I have no
idea," said 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus of Thompson's fight back
after the news.
Rory McIlroy, trying to complete a career grand slam this
week with a Masters triumph, said the punishment far outweighed the crime.
"It was tough on Lexi," McIlroy said. "The
two-shot penalty, fine. There was a rules infraction there. I get it. But two
shots for signing an incorrect scorecard? She didn't know she was signing an
incorrect scorecard at the time and she didn't have a chance to rectify that.
That was the one that really I think outraged most people.
"I know Lexi and I've known her for a few years. She is
not a cheat. She's a great girl, a great player, great competitor."
While the notion of viewers policing golf got big attention
in the aftermath, poor ball placement after marking was also an issue for
Mickelson and McIlroy.
"I know a number of guys on tour that are loose with
how they mark the ball and have not been called on it," Mickelson said.
"I feel like we've all kind of been a little lax at
times in the markings of our golf ball and I hate to see it cost somebody a
Nicklaus said anything not caught before the round ends
shouldn't be reviewable afterwards.
"That isn't necessarily what (the rule) is. But that's
what I think," he said.
McIlroy said the act of marking, putting a flat round
holding spot on the green and picking up the ball, is an imprecise act to start
"It doesn't go exactly in the same place again,"
he said. "OK, it might have moved a quarter of an inch. There may have
been a rules infraction there. But I just think what's happened the last 12
months with all these rules controversies in the game, it just doesn't put out
a good image for us and for the game of golf."
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson played the last few holes of his
US Open victory last June knowing he was to be assessed a penalty for a
violation from the front nine.
And Tiger Woods long faced extra scrutiny from cameras as he
won 14 major titles.
"I think Tiger said it best - people at home don't need
to be wearing striped shirts: they don't need to be calling in and officiating
us," McIlroy said.