ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – Amid backlash from some prominent fellow professionals, Europe’s Suzann Pettersen stood her ground over her handling of the controversial phantom concession at the end of the fourball matches early Sunday morning at the Solheim Cup.
After Sunday’s afternoon singles matches, Pettersen said she had no regrets about how she dealt with American Alison Lee and the controversy at the 17th green, where Lee lost the hole for scooping her ball after thinking she heard the Europeans concede her 18-inch putt.
The Europeans did not, and it led to the Americans losing the match and a vital point heading into singles.
Pettersen said she wouldn’t change the way she handled it.
“We are all trying to win, to play golf,” Pettersen said. “I totally respect the Americans. We totally respect the game. At that point of time in the match, with the putt she had left, I would still like to see it. If she had the putt to win the cup, I would still like to see it.”
While the Europeans were within the rules, they’re facing criticism over whether they violated the spirit of the rules.
“How Suzann can justify that I will never, ever know,” Hall of Famer Laura Davies said on Sky Sports 4. “We are all fierce competitors, but, ultimately, it's unfair. We have to play week in, week out together and you do not do something like that to a fellow pro.
“I am disgusted. I know she is angry and justifying everything, but she has let herself down and she has certainly let her team down. I am so glad I am not on that team this time.”
Two-time major champion Zach Johnson also didn’t like what he saw.
“What happened on the 17th green is a disgrace to the sport,” he tweeted.
The controversy occurred after Lee missed an 8-foot putt for birdie, leaving herself 18 inches for par. Saying she thought she heard someone say the putt was conceded, Lee scooped up her ball with her putter head and grabbed it. Europe’s Charley Hull and both European caddies in Lee’s line of sight walked away before Lee did so, as if the putt were conceded. As Lee picked up, even the referee was heard saying: “The hole is halved in four.”
Afterward, Hull said she wasn’t walking off the green because she thought the hole was conceded. She said she was walking toward Pettersen on the far end of the green to discuss whether to concede the putt.
Still, Hull was in tears after the match, making it appear she was upset over how she and Pettersen won.
“I felt really bad because of what happened,” Hull said. “I was just upset. I felt sorry for her, but at the end of the day, rules are rules.”
European captain Carin Koch stood by the decision.
“You feel bad when someone makes the mistake,” Koch said. “We had a rules meeting early in the week where they clearly told us how important it is to make sure that someone has conceded the putt. And no one did. It's clear in the TV screen, it's clear to everybody. You feel bad, of course, you don't want to win a hole because someone makes a mistake. It wasn't a short enough putt where they would have even given it. We have to follow the rules of golf.”
Koch said that Brittany Lincicome, Lee’s playing partner, yelled out to Lee not to pick up the ball, a sign the Americans should have been aware the putt wasn’t conceded.
“I did that because I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was conceded,” Lincicome said. “Alison thought she heard someone say the putt was conceded. It might have been somebody in the crowd.”
Koch was asked to react to criticism that the Europeans were unsportsmanlike in their handling of the issue.
“Sportsmanship is very important, of course, to golf and to this competition,” Koch said. “But so are the rules. If we have rules, we have to play by them. They're there for both teams. They're there to benefit all the players in both teams.”