A day later, Pettersen rights wrong from Solheim Cup

By Randall MellSeptember 22, 2015, 1:47 am

ST. LEON-ROT, Germany – Athletes who play golf at the highest level aren’t nobler than athletes in other sports.

They are as flawed and imperfect as people playing in the NFL, the Premier League, Major League Baseball and other elite athletic organizations.

People who play golf professionally don’t necessarily have more integrity or character than pros in other sports.

The nobility in golf is in how the game aspires to be different. It’s in how the game holds its participants to higher standards. It’s also in how violating its honorable traditions punishes reputations.

Golf’s traditions create pressure to conform unlike any other sport.

You move your ball mark a half inch closer to the hole, you’re practically perpetrating a heinous crime.

PGA Tour and LPGA commissioners don’t necessarily need to hand down large fines to sanction rule breakers. There’s no punishment in golf more effective than the public shaming of a player. Cheaters are practically social lepers. It’s the most damning label to shake in the sport. Golf is different in how formidably its honorable traditions are woven into competition. How you win matters more in golf with sportsmanship so fundamentally rooted in how you make a score. You call penalties on yourself. You disqualify yourself when you realize you’ve violated a rule after you’ve signed your scorecard. You turn yourself in to your playing partners when your ball moves so slightly after you’ve addressed it that nobody else could possibly have seen it move.

It’s this unique nature of golf’s traditions that take us to Suzann Pettersen and the controversy she found herself embroiled in Sunday at the Solheim Cup.

Be absolutely clear here, Pettersen did not cheat teaming with Charley Hull to win a Sunday fourball match against Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicome. Pettersen did not break any written rules in the controversy that erupted on the 17th green at St. Leon-Rot. In fact, she followed the letter of the law.

Pettersen’s crime, in the eyes of so many, was that she violated the spirit of the game’s rules.

As Pettersen is learning, there can be a scarlet letter in that, too.

Pettersen didn’t know it at the time, but that’s the penalty she incurred at the 17th green, a penalty harsher than the one Lee was dealt after scooping up her ball there when she thought she heard the Europeans concede her 18-inch putt to halve the hole.

Lee’s penalty cost her a match.

Pettersen’s cost her something greater, something she is now pledging to win back. It cost her the respect and admiration of a lot of her peers and golf fans.

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“Suzann is always one of the thorns in the side of the Americans,” Morgan Pressel said. “But there’s a way to do it, with class, and there’s a way to do it without it.”

Even some European teammates were upset by Pettersen’s stand.

“It’s confusion between both sides, and do you do the sporting thing and give a half?” England’s Melissa Reid told Sky Sports News HQ. “In my opinion I think that should have been done, but she didn’t.

“I think she just completely lost perspective of the big picture.”

Laura Davies, who has won more Solheim Cup points than any European in the history of the event, was harsh in her criticism.

“She’s been very unsporting,” Davies said on Sky Sports 4 TV. “We’ve got the point, but they’ve got the moral high ground.”

At Solheim Cup’s end Sunday night, Pettersen said she had no regrets. She said she had no problem holding Lee to a rule so many critics believe Lee was unfairly misled into breaking. Pettersen said she would have conducted herself the same given another chance.

Come Monday morning, Pettersen made a complete turnabout.

She publicly apologized.

Why? Maybe sleeping on it gave Pettersen time to better evaluate. Or maybe it wasn’t being able to sleep. Or maybe it was the overwhelming backlash from colleagues and fans outraged by her actions. Maybe it was the public shaming and what that was doing to her reputation.

Golf’s ruthless that way.

“I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition,” Pettersen wrote in an Instagram post on Monday. “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.”

Pettersen met with U.S. captain Juli Inkster to apologize before leaving Germany.

“To the fans of golf who watched the competition on TV, I am sorry for the way I carried myself,” Pettersen wrote. “I can be so much better and being an ambassador for this great game means a lot to me.

“The Solheim Cup has been a huge part of my career. I wish I could change Sunday for many reasons. Unfortunately, I can't. This week, I want to push forward toward another opportunity to earn the Solheim Cup back for Europe in the right way. And I want to work hard to earn back your belief in me as someone who plays hard, plays fair and plays the great game of golf the right way.”

In that last sentence, you’re seeing Pettersen acknowledge what golf aspires to be. In the entire apology, you’re seeing the pressure of golf tradition’s power to conform.

There were lessons to be learned by more than Pettersen in what transpired at St. Leon-Rot’s 17th hole Sunday morning. While the brunt of it came down on Pettersen, she wasn’t alone in the mess. That needs to be said.

You can trace the root of this whole fiasco to mistakes by the two youngest players involved.

Lee and Hull both screwed up, and Pettersen’s mistake was taking advantage of it. Her sin was seeing how Hull may have unwittingly and unintentionally duped Lee into believing the Euros were conceding a putt they actually weren’t conceding and then reveling in the misfortune. Her sin was in failing to step up and do the right thing by remedying the mistakes.

There may have been no rule violation in that, but there was no honor in it, either.

There was no honor winning that way.

There was nothing wrong with Pettersen deciding she and Hull were not going to concede any more putts in a match that was so close and so important. Lee was wrong picking up her ball without being certain the putt was conceded. It was a fundamental mistake she is largely being absolved in making. It’s an even larger mistake than it first appeared with Lincicome acknowledging late Sunday that she yelled out a warning to Lee before Lee scooped up her putt. Lincicome yelled, “Don’t pick it up,” but it was too late.

That’s damning to Lee, because if Lincicome was unsure the putt was conceded, Lee also should have been.

Here’s the problem for Pettersen, though.

Hull was standing closest to Lee aside the green with both European caddies at her side. Lee could see them. After Lee missed her 8-foot birdie putt and started walking to the 18-inch putt she left herself, Hull and the caddies bolted away, as if they were conceding the putt.

This is where Lee gets off the hook, and this is where Pettersen gets on it.

Though Hull never verbally conceded the putt to Lee, she communicated as much leading both caddies away, as if the putt were 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 scooping up her ball.

Pettersen was on the far side of the green, far from where Lee picked up. Maselli said as Pettersen was walking away, she told him the putt was not conceded. That’s where Masselli stepped in, talked to the American and European players and then penalized Lee, giving the hole to the Europeans.

Masselli had a chance to get both Lee, Hull and Pettersen off the hook there, but that didn’t happen, either.

Because Lee said she thought she heard somebody say the putt was good, Maselli knew he had an option to remedy the error.

Decision 2-4/3 in the Rules of Golf would have allowed Lee to replace her ball as near as possible to where she picked it up, if a statement by the opponent led Lee to believe her putt was conceded. Maselli said he talked to all the parties there, and he found no evidence somebody from the European team told Lee to pick up. He said he couldn’t apply the remedy because of that.

“There would have had to have been something uttered by the team, caddie, one of the helpers, one of the assistant captains or captain,” Maselli said. “But nothing was said.”

Two rules experts contacted by GolfChannel.com, however, said that there was room for discretion in applying Decision 2-4/3, discretion that could have allowed Lee to replace her ball and putt without penalty after picking up. One of the rules experts said Hull and the European caddies marching off the green could have been construed as a non-verbal statement that “reasonably could have led” Lee to believe the putt was conceded when you combined it with Lee saying she thought she heard someone say it was conceded.

Even with that, Pettersen had the best view of how the confusion unfolded, with Hull and the two European caddies marching away. Pettersen should have been able to see how the Europeans may have unintentionally led Lee into believing the putt was conceded.

Still, Pettersen insisted the rule be applied in a way that cost the Americans the hole.

It should be noted that Hull said she wasn’t moving away from Lee because she thought the putt was conceded.

“I was walking over to Suzann to discuss whether or not to give the putt, and then I turn around and she picks it up,” Hull said.

Hull’s explanation is confusing, as the putt was so short, and a simple glance and nod to Pettersen would have sufficed, without the misleading parade away from Lee. Hull’s tears after the match were revealing, too. She appeared genuinely upset about the manner in which the Europeans won, shaken by the unexpected turn.

Eight hours or so later, at day’s end, Hull explained the morning tears.

“I felt sorry for her, but at the end of the day, rules are rules,” Hull said.

Ultimately, Pettersen made the final call at the 17th, and even she concluded Monday that it was the wrong call to penalize Lee. While Pettersen might not have violated the Rules of Golf, she outraged a lot of folks who believe she violated the spirit of the game. In this sport, that’s also a cardinal sin, and now Pettersen’s repenting.

Pettersen’s apology might have come a day late, but it’s good for the game. It’s good for the Solheim Cup, and it’s good for Pettersen.

If Jack Nicklaus will forever be remembered for the great concession giving a putt to Tony Jacklin that ended the 1969 Ryder Cup in a draw (the U.S. retained the cup), Pettersen seemed destined Sunday night to be remembered for the great anti-concession. While Nicklaus will be remembered for the sportsmanship he showed, Pettersen seemed destined to be remembered for the lack of sportsmanship in the phantom concession.

This will follow Pettersen for awhile, but her pledge to make amends follows her, too. There is honor in righting wrongs. There is admiration for players who make great saves getting up and down after putting themselves in awful lies. Some of the most memorable triumphs in golf are made by players extricating themselves from difficult predicaments.

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Romo rallies to win American Century Championship

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:42 am

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.

Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.

''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''

Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.

The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.

Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.

Full-field scores from the American Century Championship

''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''

Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.

Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.

Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.

Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.

The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.

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Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major

By Associated PressJuly 16, 2018, 12:10 am

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.

Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.

Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.

Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.

He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.

His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.

Full-field scores from the Constellation Energy Senior Players

The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.

His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.

McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.

He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.

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Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship

By Randall MellJuly 15, 2018, 11:26 pm

Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.

The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.

The week was more than nostalgic. 

It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.

In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.

“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”

Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.

“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”

Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.

Full-field scores from the U.S. Senior Women’s Open

The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.

“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”

Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.

“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”

She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.

“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.

At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.

With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.

This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.

“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”

Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.

“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.

In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.

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Suwannapura beats Lincicome in playoff for first win

By Associated PressJuly 15, 2018, 10:49 pm

SYLVANIA, Ohio - Thidapa Suwannapura's main focus going into the Marathon Classic was trying to put together four solid rounds that would help her keep her LPGA card.

She doesn't have to worry about that any longer.

Suwannapura picked up her first win on Sunday, closing with a 6-under 65 and birdieing the first playoff hole to defeat Brittany Lincicome at Highland Meadows.

In the playoff, Suwannapura converted a short birdie putt after Lincicome hit her second shot into a water hazard and scrambled for par.

''I never expect it was going to be today at all. I've just been struggling the whole year,'' said Suwannapura, whose previous best finish was seventh at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship. ''Finally all my work I've been doing has come out and shown up today. After I knocked that last putt in, it just felt like a dream come true.''

With the win, the 25-year-old Thai player has an exemption through the 2020 season. She is also the sixth first-time winner on tour this year

Suwannapura picked up three strokes over her final two holes, making eagle on the par-5 17th and closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th to finish at 14-under 270. She then had to wait for the final seven groups to finish.

''I did not think or expect that 14 would be good enough, because I know there were two par 5s coming in on 17 and 18, and it's a good opportunity for players to make birdie,'' Suwannapura said. ''I was just chilling in the clubhouse, you know, being silly and stuff, trying to relax, and see what they're doing. Now, like, 'Oh, I have to go warm up and try to win the tournament.'''

Full-field scores from the Marathon Classic

Lincicome shot 67. She had a chance to win in regulation, but her birdie putt from about 10 feet did a nearly 360-degree turn around the edge of the cup and stayed out.

Despite having eight career victories, including this season's opener in the Bahamas, the 32-year-old Lincicome said she was extremely nervous standing over that putt.

''I was shaking so bad. I had to take so many deep breaths. So it's kind of cool to have those nerves, but learning how to play through them after 12 years of being a pro ... 14 years of being a pro, I still haven't figured it out, so that's a little disappointing,'' she said. ''(The putt) caught a lot of the hole, so I feel like I hit a pretty good putt for how nervous I was. I really haven't seen one that aggressive in a long time, so that was just unfortunate, really.''

Next up for the big-hitting Lincicome: a start against the men at the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship in Kentucky. She will become the first woman since 2004 to play in a PGA Tour event.

Third-round leader Brooke Henderson led by two shots after six holes, but struggled the rest of the way. Back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her out of the lead. The 20-year-old Canadian finished with a 2-under 69, one shot out of the playoff.

''Sometimes golf is weird. Sometimes it just doesn't go your way, and that was kind of me the last four holes,'' said Henderson, who lost for only the second time in six occasions she has led after 54 holes.

Besides the tour exemption, Suwannapura's win came with another bonus. She was one of five players to earn a spot in the Women's British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

The top five players not already exempt earned spots. The other qualifiers were Daniela Darquea, Celine Herbin, Mina Harigae and Mel Reid.