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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Here's How Lexi Accidently Mismarked Her Ball (Video & Pics)

After listening to Lexi's presser Wednesday -- and recreating the mismarking incident myself -- I think I can finally explain how Lexi could mismark her ball so badly by accident. And since Lexi seemed genuinely confused by the event when asked at the presser, perhaps it will help her as well.

First, here's the now-notorious video of the event, currently posted on this page at the Golf Channel website. (In the photos below, please forgive the ever-present "arrow" -- it appeared every time I paused the video for a screen capture.) The footage I'm using is in the first 32 seconds of the video:

There are actually two things you need to know in order to understand this video, and Lexi told us both of them at her presser. You can find the quotes I'm using in this Golfweek post.

The first is her mental focus at the time. She had just missed a short putt on the last hole and, as she walked up to tap this putt in, she said she could hear her dad's voice telling her to slow down:
Thompson began by explaining how upset she was about her birdie effort from 20 feet in the third round. Terrible stroke, she said.
She initially thought about tapping it in, but because her father, Scott, has fussed about the number of short putts she has missed over the years by moving too hastily – “I’ve stubbed a few” – Thompson decided to mark the ball.
She walked along the line of the original putt to tap in the putt, then decided at the last second to mark it. You can see the momentary indecision in the video. That indecision is why she marked it from the side.

The second is how she marks her ball:
“The way I mark my ball, I mark my ball with a dot, and that’s where I focus my eyes on where I want to make contact,” she 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.”
She uses a dot on the back of the ball, not a line on top, so she's looking at a tiny dot when she marks.

Now we're ready to go through the incident as it happened in the video.

Lexi has just made that "terrible stroke" and walks toward the ball, intending to just tap it in. But she thinks better of it -- her father's voice, if you will -- and decides instead to mark it. Perhaps because she's still frustrated by the miss on the previous hole and the bad stroke she just made, perhaps because she just didn't think things through because it's a spur-of-the-moment decision, perhaps because it's such a short putt, she doesn't walk around and mark the ball as she might for a longer putt. Instead, she marks it from the side. This is the mistake that sets the whole debacle in motion.

You see, Lexi may have thought about her dad's words, but she's still "moving too hastily." Her mindset hasn't changed from "this is just a tap-in." She's more concerned about the dot than the putt.

As we all know, it's very easy to miss the obvious when your mind is on something else. (How often have we heard an announcer say, "He fell in love with the line and forgot to hit the ball?" Same thing.) But because we don't want to be disturbed when we're trying to putt, we're advised to choose a very small target -- like a single dimple on the ball, or a dot -- and focus on that. Lexi's focusing pretty hard on that dot at this point, and not much else.

My first thought was that perhaps when Lexi tried to line up that dot, she tilted her head somehow and changed the way she saw the line. But as you can see from this comparison showing just after she put the coin down to reach for the ball and then just after she set the ball down to reach for the coin, her head is in the same position:

Comparison of Lexi before and after moving her ball

At this point I realized that I needed to try and recreate what she did. Often we watch things over and over without really seeing what's there, and we don't really "see" until we try it ourselves. And that's what happened to me.

Because when I tried to mark the ball just like Lexi did, I suddenly discovered that I COULDN'T SEE THE BALL MARKER AT ALL AFTER I PUT IT DOWN. MY PALM WAS IN THE WAY.

Look, here are four stills from the close-up in the video. I've added a small yellow dot just below the position of the marker. The stills show:
  1. Lexi just after placing the marker
  2. Lexi rotating the ball
  3. Lexi placing the ball
  4. Lexi reaching to pick up the marker
The ball marker is under her palm -- hidden from view -- in all four stills. In fact, I found that rotating the ball as Lexi did actually made the marker even harder to see -- my fingers got in the way.

Sequence of Lexi marking her ball

Why didn't Lexi notice this? Because her attention was on the small dot she was trying to line up with the hole. And from her point of view, her hand never moved from its original position, so no alarms went off in her head.

Go back and watch the incident again at full speed. It's obvious, once you know what to look for.

Look, this doesn't mean that Lexi didn't break a rule, not even when you take the new "naked-eye" and "reasonable judgment" standards into account. The movement is clearly visible when viewed at full speed from the original broadcast footage. But this should put to rest any rumors that Lexi did it on purpose.

However, we should note the cause of this whole sad sequence of events. Once Lexi decided to mark the ball, if she had been thinking about making a normal putt instead of a tap-in, and had lined up the ball as if it were a longer putt, her hand would have been to the side of the marker, not covering it while she marked the ball. She would have had a clearer view and would likely have noticed if she positioned the ball incorrectly.

As much as I hate to say this -- given the current fuss about slow play -- Lexi simply didn't take enough time to gather herself. She probably should have put down her coin, picked up her ball and walked away. She should have taken a few deep breaths, a few practice strokes, and taken time to clear her mind of the bad putt she had just hit. And then she should have taken the time to line up her putt like normal.

In short, Lexi didn't treat this like an important putt. But it was.

There's no such thing as a tap-in at a major. I.K. Kim can tell you that. And now, so can Lexi. Hopefully she'll move past this sooner rather than later.

Of course, we'll get to watch her first tournament back starting today at noon ET when GC broadcasts the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. You can get a quick overview of the event over at Tony Jesselli's blog.




  3. No accident. I have intentionally done the same thing it playing for fun games 100s of times