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  • Alistair Tait

Doing Golf No Favours

Well, we learned one thing from the 17th Solheim Cup: rules of golf officials working the match do carry stop watches. More to the point, they know how to use them.

Bet you thought they were mere fashion accessories, like bracelets or brooches or tiepins.

Strange that those same rules officials can use a stopwatch to implement the 10-second rule under Rule 13.3b, but fail to let it run to 40 seconds to implement Rule 5.6b which says players only have 40 seconds to play a shot. There was one breach of Rule 13.3b on the opening day’s play at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. That breach earned the United States a point.

Like the Slowheim Cup at Gleneagles, there were multiple breaches of Rule 5.6b. Not one player was penalised for impersonating a snail. Not. One.

Oh yes, I forgot, rule 13.3b is a hard and fast law. 5.6b? It’s but a mere recommendation that most players and all rules officials in the Solheim Cup pay no attention to whatsoever.

Let’s cut to the chase. Madelene Sagström’s decision to pick up Nelly Korda’s ball after seven seconds as it sat beside the 13th hole was a breach of Rule 13.3b under the strict application of the law, which states:

“If the opponent in match play deliberately lifts or moves the player’s ball overhanging the hole before the waiting time has ended, the player’s ball is treated as holed with the previous stroke.”

Was the application of that rule in the spirit of the game? Not. Even. Close.

No blame is apportioned to Korda. She didn’t call for the rules official. Neither did she ask Sagström not to touch the ball. You can bet Korda, or playing partner Ally Ewing, would have told Sagström not to touch the ball if they thought it had a chance to drop. That was Catriona Matthew’s take. The European captain said:

“I mean, 100 percent believe Madelene did not for one instant think that ball had any chance of going in the hole when she picked it up, and I don’t honestly believe Nelly or Ally actually thought it was going to go in either.
“There was no reaction when Madelene picked up the ball and threw it to them. “

Sagström, who was fighting tears afterwards, said:

“I believe in integrity and honour of the game of golf and I would never pick up a putt that had a chance to go in. I personally don’t agree with the decision with the ball being on the edge but I didn’t follow the 10-second rule. It sucks right now.”

It does suck. The players would have simply walked to the next tee if the rules official hadn't intervened, happy that nothing untoward had happened. No wonder Thomas Bjorn tweeted:

Bjorn’s right. This sort of incident does our game no favours whatsoever. Once again our game looks out of touch with reality. No wonder there are times when many of us despair for the game we love. This is one of those times.

As I wrote yesterday, it wouldn’t be a Solheim Cup if there wasn’t some sort of controversy.

Still, at least we know Solheim Cup rules officials do carry stop watches, and do know how to use them. I look forward to seeing players slapped with slow penalties over the next two days for serious breaches of 5.6b.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

#JustSaying: “The rules are simple and easily understood by anyone who has once seen the game, but to the totally uninitiated they appear to be hopelessly unintelligible. John Gilmer Speed


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