Solheim Cup Controversy
But the crescendo of criticism has reached a level that hasn't been heard since, oh, the last time the United States and Europe got together for a similar sporting match. Then, it happened when Americans bounded onto the green for a celebration of unrestrained joy before Jose Maria Olazabal had a chance to putt. This time it was the ladies. Annika Sorenstam chipped in for the Europeans, but the Americans said she was out of turn. Sorenstam had to chip it over, she missed this time and she wound up losing the hole.
Here's where things get touchy. All of Europe - and half of America judging by the newspapers - feel Sorenstam got cheated. Of course, the rules state that it is the aggrieved party's option when confronted with such a situation. That is what is so confounding. U.S. captain Pat Bradley was the woman on the hot seat here. It was she who said, 'Replay the shot.' Now she is taking criticism from all corners.
Why? Well, some say Americans Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst both assumed it was Sorenstam's turn and let her chip away. Others say Sorenstam played too quickly, while Robbins and Hurst were discussing the putt. We won't consider that in this discussion. We'll consider that Robbins and Hurst figured it was Sorenstam's turn, they stood by quietly until she had chipped, and then froze when it became apparent that something wrong had happened.
Bradley didn't see what happened, either. But Robbins, upon realizing the mistake, sent word to her captain. Bradley appeared and made the decision to enforce the replay option.
Bradley was in a can't-win situation. If she had allowed the match to progress with no action, she would have been vilified from the American side. She didn't allow the chip, and she was vilified anyway. What gives here?
It's a predicament that gives both sides the right to criticize. The Europeans were right to criticize - and oh, how they have criticized - because neither Robbins nor Hurst spoke up until the shot was played. But had Sorenstam not been forced to replay the shot, the American women would have been agitated.
Golf is a gentleman's - or gentlewoman's - game. If you and a friend are playing, you are a hardhead if you want to be a stickler for the rules. Nearly everyone allows 'gimmes.' If you discover a ball is lost, rarely will your partner make you go back to the tee and hit again. Seldom is anything more at stake than $5 and the group behind you is waiting, too. So you relax the strict interpretation of the rules, right?
But you don't do that when a match has the weight of the Solheim Cup behind it - especially when one team, America, is already down. Someone is going to have become the heavy, and unfortunately, Bradley was it.
The rules say Bradley could have ignored the error and continued the match. But that undoubtedly is what the rulesmakers were trying to avoid. Their intent was to make the party as uncomfortable as possible. What if Sorenstam had mistakenly skulled the shot over the green? Would she have gotten to replay it then, many asked with that `Gotcha' inflection? The answer would be `no,' because it was already the worst possible scenario. That puts teeth into the ruling.
So many of golf's rulings make little sense. But that is part of what makes the sport. It's unfair to me that a person can be out-of-bounds by an inch and have to take distance-and-penalty, yet a person who whiffs simply takes another swat. Under one you take three strokes, while another, more serious occurrence, you take only two. A ball wriggles on the green, a player's son hides a 15th club in his bag, a player unwittingly signs for the wrong number of strokes . any number of infractions incur and, while certainly they are seemingly unsporting, they are called. And the consequences are far more serious than they were for Sorenstam, whose side eventually won the matches.
The European press rails against the Americans and says Jack Nicklaus would have never done it. Nicklaus, they remind, once conceded a short putt to Tony Jacklin that meant the Ryder Cup would end in a deadlock.
That is light years apart from what happened here. Here, the players were trying to decide a tight match in the second round instead of the deciding match of the third round. The Americans were in real danger of losing - which they eventually did. It was quite simply the wrong time to play Santa Claus. Do you think Nicklaus would have given Jacklin the putt if it had been for the British Open? I hardly think so.
At any rate, the bleating from the European side has been loud and constant. It's understandable. But it's the fault of the rulesmakers for not being more clear. The option of whether to ask Sorenstam to replay the shot was not intended to excuse her. It was to put some teeth into the rule.
Annika Sorenstam will remember this Solheim Cup for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, so will Pat Bradley.
Day (68) just one back at Australian Open
Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.
Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)
What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.
Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.
Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.
Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.
Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball
Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.
In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.
"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’
Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.
“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.
“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’
Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.
The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving
Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.
The major championships I'm certainly proud of, but Barbara, the kids and my grandkids are the best things to ever happen to me. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/wkma1Q9LlK— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 23, 2017
GC Tiger Tracker:
Mixing Thanksgiving and waiting for a week from today. pic.twitter.com/u9m9WxQNYx— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) November 23, 2017
Happy thanksgiving to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends. #Thankful— Steve Stricker (@stevestricker) November 23, 2017
Was reading about Thanksgiving. Originally they ate waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. Seems a bit tastier than Turkey!— Frank Nobilo (@FrankNobiloGC) November 23, 2017
Literally food for thought.
Tyrone Van Aswegen:
Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017
Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.