Tears, tension after match ends in controversy

By Randall MellSeptember 20, 2015, 10:37 am

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – The Solheim Cup’s resumption of suspended fourballs ended in tears, controversy and confusion Sunday morning.

Europe took a 10-6 lead on the United States into Sunday singles amid emotional upheaval in the team ranks on both sides.

American Alison Lee and Europe’s Suzann Pettersen were at the heart of the controversy after Lee scooped up an 18-inch putt for par at the 17th hole thinking she heard the Europeans say it was conceded as the European caddies and players were walking away before she putted out. The putt would have halved the hole and kept the match square going to the final hole.

Because the putt wasn’t actually conceded, the Americans lost the hole and went on to lose the match and a vital point.

“It’s just B.S as far as I’m concerned,” U.S. captain Juli Inkster said.

The controversy spilled into the start of Sunday singles with the captains giving their takes on the issue at the first tee as players teed off for the final session.

“It’s just not right,” Inkster said. “It puts a damper on the whole thing.”

Lee had 8 feet for a birdie at the 17th and missed it, leaving herself 18 inches for par. Believing the putt was conceded, Lee scooped up her ball with her putter head and grabbed it. Europe’s Charley Hull and both caddies in Lee’s line of sight walked away before she did so, as if the putt were conceded. After she picked up, even the referee was heard saying: “The hole is halved in four.”

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But that wasn’t the case.

Pettersen was standing on the far side of the green away from Lee. Referee Dan Maselli said Pettersen also began walking away, but when Lee didn’t putt out, Pettersen stopped him. She told him that the putt wasn’t conceded. The referee then walked back to inform Lee the putt wasn’t conceded, and so Lee’s failure to putt out resulted in the loss of the hole.

“I looked at it and I thought I heard it was good,” Lee said. “They said they didn't say it was, but I could have sworn I thought I heard it was good. To me it looked good. It was a really short putt, easy putt. And at the same time, Charley was walking off the green and Suzann was already off the green, so there was no doubt in my mind that putt was good. I didn't even think twice about it. So I just picked it up.”

European captain Carin Koch said the mistake was on Lee.

“It’s clear the putt wasn’t conceded,” Koch said. “Both Suzann and Charley agree, they would have made her putt out. Even Brittany Lincicome was saying `Don’t pick it up, don’t pick it up.’ She was screaming to her, but too late.”

Lincicome confirmed at the end of Sunday’s singles matches that she did shout to Lee not to pick up her ball, but it was too late.

“I did that because I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was conceded,” Lincicome said.

Lincicome wasn’t immediately available for comment after the morning fourballs but issued a statement to the media before her singles match:

“She said she actually heard [someone] say that's good. I don't know if somebody in the crowd said it.

“Suzann and Charley were both so far from the hole and already were walking towards 18. So maybe that's why Alison thought she had heard them say it was good, because their backs were almost to us, and they were kind of walking away. And then she just picked it up, because she thought she heard somebody say it was good. They both said, `no, we didn't say it was good.’”

Pettersen and Hull were not made available for comment before their singles matches. Koch believes the Europeans were justified holding Lee to the rules.

“Everyone is agreeing it wasn’t a given putt,” Koch said. “So, within the Rules of Golf, she has unfortunately made a mistake and we all feel bad.”

Maselli said the Rules of Golf provided a remedy for Lee, but he said it wasn’t applicable.

“There is a decision that allows the player to put the ball back down if something confuses her, but there wasn’t anything in my interview of the facts that allowed her to put the ball back down and putt,” Maselli said. “There would have had to have been something uttered by the team, a caddie, one of the helpers, one of the assistant captains or captain, but nothing was said by anybody.”

Shaken, Lee and Lincicome lost the final hole, too, with Europe taking a 2-up victory.

Confusion reigned in the aftermath.

Lee was in tears before the match was over, crying and wiping her eyes on the 18th green. Hull also was in tears aside the 18th hole when the match was over.

Emotions were high with captains and players on both sides upset.

With Pettersen preparing to step in front of a television camera for a post-round interview, European assistant captain Annika Sorenstam pulled Pettersen away, huddling with her and Koch. In an animated discussion, Sorenstam and Koch spoke to Pettersen for more than five minutes aside that green. Inkster also pulled Lee, Lincicome and the rest of the American team aside and huddled with them.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.