Morri: Rahm & Lexi Must Take Responsibility for Rules

Lexi Thompson and Jon Rahm should have taken a leaf out of Bobby Jones' book, Rod Morri says.
“You might as well congratulate a man for not robbing a bank.” The statement is iconic, as is the golfer who made it, and it serves as a timely reminder of one of the most important lessons golf has to teach us all.

Taking responsibility.

It was Bobby Jones who uttered those famous words after being lauded for calling a penalty on himself that ultimately cost him the 1925 US Open title.

In the opening round, Jones felt he had accidentally moved his ball in the rough, but when rules officials could find no evidence to substantiate his claim, they left the decision to the man himself. Jones didn’t hesitate in assessing a penalty.

He went on to lose in a play-off but his actions that first day, and his response to the praise that followed, are a part of golf lore.

Fast forward to 2017 and one can’t help but wonder what Jones might make of recent high profile rules controversies that have dogged the game.

The Lexi Thompson debacle at the ANA tournament in April and the Jon Rahm ruling from last week’s Irish Open have left a cloud hanging over the game.

Leaving aside the intricate details of each incident, what stands out is the actions of the players themselves.

Neither Thompson nor Rahm made the effort to view video of their alleged infractions, instead leaving full responsibility for the outcomes in the hands of rules officials.

It’s a common theme in the modern professional game and, given the sums of money on offer each week at the top level, a somewhat understandable one.

Players call on officials for the most straightforward of rulings, where the fear of making a mistake and losing shots and/or dollars is a major motivating factor.

But there is much more to golf than simply amassing titles and money and players, particularly at the top of the game, have a responsibility to not only do what’s right but to be seen to be doing so.

Both Thompson and Rahm could, and should, have been involved in their respective rulings.

Thompson has made it clear she feels she didn’t deserve a penalty for mis-marking her ball on the 17th green of the Saturday round of the ANA and she should have taken the opportunity to say so at the time.

When asked immediately after her play-off loss to So Yeon Ryu, Thompson said she had not seen the video which led to the ruling.

Three weeks later, in her first public appearance, her response was: “Well, I mean, I have seen the video, and I can see where they’re coming from with it.”

If Thompson doesn’t agree she mis-marked her ball, the time to speak up was on the day. She has that right and should have exercised it. Her decision not to contributed to the derision directed at rules officials who were simply doing their job.

Rahm, too, showed little interest in viewing the evidence of his infraction and, in his post-round press conference, was clear he felt the decision was totally in the hands of European Tour rules official Andy McFee.

“I told him (McFee), listen, if it's a penalty stroke, let me know now, I'll accept it,” Rahm said after his six-shot victory.

“This is what I did. I did it. If it's not on the right spot, if it's a penalty stroke, let me know.”

Some might feel that is a reasonable position for Rahm to take. I don’t.

Had Rahm taken the time to view the video before signing his card, one assumes he would have seen what most others did and, rightly, assessed himself a penalty.

That would have been better not only for Rahm but for the game as a whole. Instead, the controversy lingers.

It’s undeniable that the rules of golf are imperfect but that doesn’t absolve players from taking an active part in their enforcement.

The actions (or inactions) of both Thompson and Rahm left rules officials to take the heat for mistakes the players themselves made.

The Thompson ruling was right, the Rahm ruling was wrong, but in both cases, the players could have done the game a greater good by taking some responsibility on themselves.

One wonders what Bobby Jones would make of it all.


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