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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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”