Newsmaker of the Year, No. 6: Gimmegate

By Randall MellDecember 14, 2015, 1:00 pm

The controversial phantom concession at the Solheim Cup may be remembered as the defining moment in the reinvigorated international team competition.

When American Alison Lee scooped up her putt at the 17th green at St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany on that Sunday morning in September thinking that it was conceded, she set off a dispute that promises to reverberate through the competition’s history. She also elevated the event’s profile, putting the sporting world’s focus on European star Suzann Pettersen and how golf’s honorable traditions make the game so curiously different.

Ultimately, what did we learn from it all?

Maybe nothing.

Three months after the controversy blew up, nothing has been resolved.

Nobody has definitively found Pettersen guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct. Nobody has absolved her, either. The rigorous debate over whether she violated the “spirit of the game” or was unfairly vilified for correctly upholding the Rules of Golf remains divided. In the end, there seemed to be as many commentators and fans defending her as criticizing her.

That’s the continuing fascination of what happened on that 17th green in Germany. A university ethics professor could probably spend a full semester deciphering the principles of right and wrong conduct exhibited there, and of how etiquette can conflict with adherence to the letter of law. The right and wrong of what happened may be debated through the history of the Solheim Cup.

Top 10 Newsmakers of 2015: The full list

Pettersen’s apology didn’t resolve the problem, either.

After initially defending her decision at event’s end, Pettersen said she was overwhelmed by the public backlash against her on social media. She said she cried in the team room that night and later issued a nearly 300-word written apology on her Instagram account. She also went on Golf Channel to explain her apology.

“I've never felt more gutted and truly sad about what went down Sunday on the 17th at the Solheim Cup,” Pettersen wrote. “I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition. I was trying my hardest for my team and put the single match and the point that could be earned ahead of sportsmanship and the game of golf itself! I feel like I let my team down and I am sorry.”

While Pettersen apologized for not being more mindful of sportsmanship, she also acknowledged her confusion over what she should have or could have done differently.

“I must say, there is quite gray [areas] playing the rules of the game and being the bigger sportsmanship,” Pettersen said in her Golf Channel interview. “At the end of the day, it means it’s a very fine line.”

Lee and Charley Hull played large roles in the confusion that played out on the 17th green in Germany, but Pettersen walked away the most damaged in the aftermath. Lee was responsible for making sure the putt was conceded. The fact that playing partner Brittany Lincicome shouted to Lee, warning her not to pick up her ball was telling. If Lincicome was uncertain, Lee should have been. Hull’s actions complicated matters. She and the two European caddies standing beside her began marching away from Lee as if they were conceding the putt. There was confusion in that. So much so that even the referee was misdirected, calling out that the hole was halved when it was not.

Pettersen’s position on the green also contributed to the confusion. She was at the very far end of the green, behind Lee. After Lee scooped up her 18-inch putt saying she thought she heard the Europeans concede, Pettersen moved into the center of the maelstrom. Pettersen did so telling the referee that the putt was not conceded after the referee called out that the hole was halved. The Americans were penalized and lost the hole and a vital fourball match, but they used the controversy to fuel a record comeback victory in singles.

“How Suzann can justify that I will never, ever know,” Hall of Famer Laura Davies said on Sky Sports 4, analyzing the action as it unfolded. “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.”

American captain Juli Inkster called Pettersen’s move “B.S.” and Hall of Famer Judy Rankin also took Pettersen to task on the Golf Channel telecast.

Pettersen had a legion of defenders, though.

“I thought she did the right thing,” Marilynn Smith, one of the LPGA’s 13 founders, told the New York Times. “I don’t understand why people criticized her.”

Smith’s question is one of many that promises to linger through Solheim Cup history.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.