Rarely has a six-shot runaway victory ended with so much tension.
We can thank Michelle Wie and LPGA rules officials for that.
Hee Kyung Seo easily won Sunday's Kia Classic, but Wie was center stage in some unexpected televised theater. With Golf Channel rolling live, we got to watch and listen to Wie’s passionate appeal over whether she deserved a two-shot penalty for grounding her club in a hazard at the 11th hole.
“I don’t feel like [the ruling] was right,” Wie told Golf Channel’s Val Skinner afterward.
In review, Wie was five shots off the lead when she hit her ball into the water’s edge near the 11th green. With her right foot in the water and left foot on the bank, she barely splashed the ball onto the shore. After water cascaded over her, and after finishing her swing, she set her club onto the ground with her left hand, within the red hazard line. Golf Channel’s Kay Cockerill quickly saw the problem and pointed out the potential rules violation. Analyst Judy Rankin weighed in, explaining that it would not be a penalty if Wie was using the club to catch her balance.
Not long after holing out at the 11th for what she thought was a par save, Wie was informed that she incurred a two-shot penalty for grounding her club. After the round, in a Golf Channel truck, Wie and rules officials engaged in a classic golf rules debate.
Wie conceded that it did not look as if she was using the club to help her catch her balance -- it did not look that way -- but that she actually was. She raised some good points in whether rules officials were making assumptions of facts they could not know. If you’re into the rules, it was a classic encounter into a gray area.
“I know what it looks like, but it was a really slippery spot,” Wie told officials. “It seems really unfair because I know I was off balance.”
Wie said the splash of water caused her to close her eyes, and set the club down instinctively to feel her balance.
“You were not me, and you can’t give me a penalty for what it looks like,” Wie pleaded with cameras rolling. “You don’t know for a fact that I was not off balance.”
LPGA rules chief Doug Brecht told Wie he and two other rules officials could see no evidence that she was off balance. Without two shots deducated, Wie's score would have tied her for second instead of sixth. The difference in prize money would have been about $91,000.
If you were watching, who do you think was right? Wie? Or the rules officials?