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.
What's in the bag: API winner McIlroy
Rory McIlroy closed in 64 to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.
Driver: TaylorMade M3 (8.5 degrees), with Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 70X shaft
Fairway woods: TaylorMade M3 (15 degrees) with Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 80TX, (19 degrees) with Fujikura Rombax P95X shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P-750 (4), P-730 RORS prototype (5-9), with Project X 7.0 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (48, 52, 56 degrees), Hi-Toe(60 degrees), with Project X Rifle 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade TP Black Copper Soto prototype
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
API purse payout: What Rory, Tiger, field made
Rory McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and collected one of the biggest non-major paychecks of the year. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out at Bay Hill.
|T14||Charles Howell III||-6||$137,950|
|T14||Byeong Hun An||-6||$137,950|
After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...
Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner
On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...
Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.
After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.
Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.
A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray
Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call
PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.
At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.
“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”
Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.
Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.
“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.