Pettersen sorry but question remains: What would she have done differently?

By Randall MellSeptember 30, 2015, 10:20 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Suzann Pettersen’s apology was delivered in heartfelt fashion.

It came across as sincere Wednesday on Golf Central.

It rang genuine in communicating her regret in how she handled that phantom concession at the 17th green on that controversial Sunday morning at the Solheim Cup a little more than a week ago.

It was also sorely incomplete.

Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte asked Pettersen three times what she would do differently if she were able to go back to the 17th green when American Alison Lee was penalized for scooping up her ball after thinking she heard the Europeans concede her 18-inch putt, but Pettersen couldn’t answer the question.

Rosaforte's 45-minute interview of Pettersen was edited before being aired on Golf Central, but he gave her three chances to answer the question as they sat in front of cameras in Pettersen’s Orlando home. With each query, Pettersen was unable to offer a specific explanation of how she could have or should have or would have handled what happened on the 17th green differently.

“I don’t know,” Pettersen said the final time Rosaforte asked.

I’m sorry, but there’s no moving on without an answer to that.

The answer is absolutely vital to the credibility of an apology.

That’s because the answer is vital to understanding the complex nature of what went wrong on the 17th green, of how Pettersen could be completely within her rights as a player to hold Lee to the letter of the law within the Rules of Golf and yet somehow be guilty of a breach of etiquette and sportsmanship so egregious that it violated the spirit of the game.

The answer is fundamental to understanding how what happened on the 17th green threatened the reputation of a world-class player and the integrity of a world-class event.

Golf Central exclusive: Pettersen on damage of Solheim flap

It’s the most important question Pettersen was posed in the interview.

In a crisis-management move to get her contrition out front, an important step was skipped.

Without knowing what Pettersen would have done differently on the 17th green, there’s no real lesson learned for all of us. That’s the thing. That’s important because the answer makes this about more than Pettersen and her need for forgiveness. It makes Pettersen’s and Lee’s pain useful to us in understanding how something as ethereal as “the spirit of the game” would have been better served.

This will easily get misconstrued, so please understand, an answer to that question doesn’t necessarily go to Pettersen’s credibility. An answer goes to the credibility of an apology, of why an apology is even required. That’s an important distinction to make as we put ourselves in Pettersen’s place and wonder what we would have done.

You cannot listen to Pettersen’s interview and not hear the earnestness in her wanting to understand how she could have better served the spirit of the game and the Solheim Cup.

“At the end of the day, the rules are the rules,” Pettersen said. “I must say, there is quite gray [areas] playing by the rules of the game and being the bigger sportsmanship. At the end of the day, it means it’s a very fine line ... I keep having these conversations inside of my head, like, ‘What was right within the game of golf? Did we do what was right within the spirit of the game?’

“The spirit of the game seems to outlast anything else, so that’s the lesson I’ve learned.”

If you’re amid a very large contingent that believes Pettersen did nothing wrong, you aren’t changing your mind without hearing Pettersen detail what she should have done differently.

And if you’re a harsh critic of Pettersen’s, you’re not being fair to her if you can’t definitively answer what she should have done differently after seeing Lee scoop up her putt.

It’s not as simple as saying Pettersen should have conceded the short putt to Lee in the first place.

There was absolutely nothing wrong with Pettersen and her playing partner, Charley Hull, requiring that Lee make that 18-inch putt. This did not become complex or controversial until after Lee scooped up her ball thinking the Europeans had given her the putt. It grew complex in how Lee mistakenly came to believe the Europeans had conceded the putt.

After Lee missed an 8-foot birdie chance and started walking to the 18-inch putt she had left to halve the hole, Hull and the two European caddies marched away, as if they were conceding the putt. They were in Lee’s line of sight while Pettersen was behind Lee, on the other side of the green. Lee said she thought she heard someone say the putt was good as Hull and the caddies began marching away.

Standing where Pettersen was, she could see how Hull and the two European caddies may have unwittingly and unintentionally duped Lee into thinking the putt was conceded. That’s not unfair to conclude because even the referee, Dan Maselli, was a victim of misdirection - so much so that he called out “the hole is halved in four” as Lee was picking up her ball. It wasn’t until Pettersen told Maselli that the putt was not conceded that the penalty was incurred and the hole was lost.

Pettersen’s sin, in the eyes of so many, was having the best vantage point of seeing how Lee may have been duped into a penalty. It was in failing to see how it was wrong for the Europeans to win the hole in that manner. That’s where the question of sportsmanship enters. It’s where the question of violating the spirit of the game enters. It’s where critics say Pettersen should have understood there was no honor in winning a match that way.

Pettersen told Rosaforte she still beats herself up wondering specifically what she should have done differently.

“It all happened so quick,” Pettersen said. “That’s kind of what I keep thinking back about, and I keep rewinding the tape, like, ‘But what could I have done differently? ... Obviously, that’s not really how you want that situation to go down ... When I looked back, thinking, ‘Should I have just calmed it all down and not walked off the 17th the way we did straight away? Or should we have had a talk about it?’ I mean, I don’t know.”

So in the final analysis, what’s the answer here? What should Pettersen have done differently in that circumstance that would have honored the spirit of the game?

Only Pettersen can dig out the answer that is right for her, but it leads to questions about what realistic options were available to her within the Rules of Golf. What could she actually have done?

Kendra Graham, Golf Channel’s rules expert and the former USGA director of women’s competitions, laid out some options in an email to three questions this writer posed to her:

1. How could a player in Suzann’s position have remedied or changed the result on the 17th before the next tee shot was struck at No. 18?  

“Immediately upon realizing that Alison Lee had picked up her ball, Suzann could have said nothing,” Graham wrote. “In match play, a player can overlook an opponent's breach of a rule (not the case in stroke play). The ‘official’ way of doing so is by not making a claim (Rule 2-5). Suzann went to the referee and explained that she did not concede the putt, bringing it to his attention. At that point, the referee is obligated to apply the penalty (see Definition of Referee).

“Obviously, Suzann made a split-second decision. In order to have been ‘in the spirit of the game,’ she should have ignored the fact that Alison had picked up her ball, walked off the putting green and headed to the 18th tee with the match all square. The only other alternative would have been for the referee to use equity (Rule 1-4, also see Decision 2-4/3), if he felt that there was reason for Alison to believe her putt had been conceded, i.e., noise from the gallery. In that case, Alison would have been required to replace her ball without penalty and putt out.” (Click here for more on the ref's role)

2. How could Suzann have remedied the result after a tee shot was hit at 18, where a player in Suzann’s position is walking down the 18th fairway and realizes she isn’t comfortable the way she won the 17th hole?

“At any time prior to completing the 18th hole, the European side could have conceded the 18th hole (see Rule 2-4),” Graham wrote.

3. Was there any way to change the result after the final putt was holed at the 18th and the match appeared to be over? Could the captains have stepped in and changed the result when the match was over?

“No,” Graham wrote.

Pettersen expressed remorse in her Golf Channel interview. She communicated earnestness in wanting to be a better caretaker of the game and a deserving future Solheim Cup captain. She pledged a commitment to serving sportsmanship and the game’s larger picture.

“I just wish it never happened, and I wish nobody will ever be put in that situation ever again,” Pettersen said.

Pettersen’s apology is good for her, but knowing specifically what she should have done differently is good for the next player who stumbles in that position. It’s good for all of us in wanting to know how the ethereal “spirit of the game” can so formidably trump the actual Rules of Golf.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry