Tears, tension after match ends in controversy

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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.