Botched Solheim Cup ruling stifles U.S. momentum

Doug Pensinger

Stacy Lewis was justifiably upset about what turned out to be a long, drawn out and eventually incorrect ruling by a Solheim Cup official during the American’s afternoon fourball match.

While it took some 30 minutes for officials to determine where Carlota Ciganda’s approach shot to the 15th green crossed a lateral water hazard to the right, the brouhaha over what proved to be bad information and a blown call continued late into the night, when the LPGA issued a statement explaining what went down:

“During the afternoon fourball match on Friday between Stacy Lewis/Lexi Thompson and Suzann Pettersen/Carlota Ciganda, Ciganda hit her second shot on the par 5 15th hole into the right-hand lateral water hazard. After locating her ball within five minutes, the referee in the match advised Ciganda of her options including Rule 26 – 1c. Prior to Ciganda receiving a final ruling, the match referee consulted with the lead rules official who then instructed Ciganda of her options.  Per Rule 26-1c (ii), a player who hits into a lateral water hazard is allowed to take equidistant relief on either side of the hazard. However, instead of dropping within the required two clubs lengths per rule 26-1c (ii), Ciganda was permitted to keep the equidistant point between her and the hole resulting in a drop  approximately 40 yards behind the equidistant point. While dropping in this manner is permitted under 26-1b, it is not permitted under 26-1c (ii) which was applicable to this situation.

“We regret that an incorrect ruling was given and we apologize for any confusion that was caused on the course for the players. Ultimately, Ciganda proceeded to play according to the final ruling she was given and the result of the match does not change.  Both captains (Meg Mallon & Liselotte Neumann) were briefed on the matter.”

Essentially, Ciganda dropped her ball some 40 yards behind the appropriate spot but was not penalized because she received bad intel.

“The player ended up dropping in a wrong place,” Solheim Cup rules official Brad Alexander told reporters later. “But there was no affect on the player, because she was given an incorrect ruling.”

The outcome proved unnerving for Lewis and playing partner Lexi Thompson, who appeared to be on their way to winning the hole but instead had to wait eons to finish in what proved, in the end, to be a losing effort.

"It took way too long," Lewis told The Associated Press. "It killed the momentum of our match, it killed the momentum of the matches behind us, and it's just not what you want the rules officials to ever do."

After Ciganda and Suzann Pettersen had won the point, 1-up, Lewis and assistant captain Dottie Pepper vociferously argued the ruling with the official, who refused to budge from what turned out to be less-than-solid ground, and U.S. captain Meg Mallon worried about the shift in momentum that left her squad down 5-3 at the end of the first day of play at Colorado Golf Club.

“The thing I'm most unhappy about is that it took ‑‑ and we can time it on the TV, I don't know ‑‑ I think it took about 25 minutes for this to happen. And from our perspective the momentum, which was coming in our favor at that point in time, obviously had stopped,” Mallon said. “If you know anything in sports, momentum's everything. ... We had the absolute advantage on that hole. ... Not only does it change the psyche of my team, but it changes the psyche of the other team, because they can have time to regroup.”

Which the U.S. will have to do on Saturday, when play resumes at 9:40 a.m. ET.

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