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  • Alistair Tait

No Solheim Strops Please

Annika Sorenstam, Kelly Robbins and Pat Bradley; mass concession in Sweden; Dottie drops the f-bomb; Ciganda gets out of jail; Suzzan Pettersen, Charley Hull and Alison Lee; Danielle Kang and the people of Scotland. These are just some of the controversies that have sprung up in the Solheim Cup, the 17th edition of which starts today.

Hopefully the golf shines over the next three days at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, and there are no histrionics inside the ropes.

Maybe the best thing about the Solheim Cup is that, unlike the Ryder Cup, there is no argy-bargy outside the ropes. I can’t think of a single incident in all my years covering the biennial match when there were ugly scenes outside the ropes, the sort of ugly scenes we saw at Brookline, at Hazeltine.

Maybe PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan should attend this week’s Solheim Cup before he implements his set the sports bar policy of making PGA Tour fans “show everyone how easy it is to enjoy yourself at an event while also respecting the athletes in the field of play and the fans around you.”

Along with the Masters and most Open Championships (2014 being the only notable exception in my time), Solheim Cup fans are the best in golf. No ugliness outside the ropes, just people who respect the sport and cheer for both teams.

As for inside the ropes, or even inside the interview room, I could probably write a book about unsavoury incidents.

Kang’s claim that Scottish fans were going to boo her at Gleneagles two years ago was met with incredulity inside the media centre, such incredulity that Kang had to backtrack and claim she was only joking. Most of us didn’t buy that, but it mitigated what could have been a bigger PR disaster had Kang stuck to her guns. Oh, and she wasn’t booed. Not. Once. As I said, Solheim Cup supporters are always respectful.

The controversy involving Petterson, Charley Hull and Alison Lee in 2015 at St Leon-Rot, Germany, marred the competition and should have been handled so much better. No way should Hull and Lee have been reduced to tears. To be fair to Petterson, she apologised profusely to the American team afterwards. However, it spoiled the contest, and perhaps gave the United States the motivation to go on and dominate the final singles session to win.

Pat Bradley’s mystifying call in 2000 perhaps also rallied the Europeans to a famous victory by the boggy, boggy banks of Loch Lomond. Her decision to make Annika Sorenstam replay her shot after she played out of turn in a fourball match she and Janice Moodie played against Kelly Robbins and Pat Hurst was a real low point for the game of golf. Bradley claimed she was only abiding by the Rules of Golf. Perhaps, but the U.S. captain forgot all about the spirit of the game. No wonder Sorenstam was also reduced to tears.

Carlota Ciganda’s drop at the 15th hole in a 2013 fourball match featuring the Spaniard and Pettersen against Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson took nearly half an hour, and probably had casual golf fans turning off their TV sets. The ruling is still mystifying. I bet even Lewis and Thompson couldn’t adequately describe it if asked today.

The 2007 match at Halmstad was memorable because a Solheim Cup legend turned on her own side. When on-course reporter Dottie Pepper was caught calling Laura Diaz and Sherri Steinhauer "choking freaking dogs" it caused more than a wee bit of tension inside the American camp. It took an awful lot of apologising for Pepper to be forgiven. Mind you, this is same Pepper who yelled “YES!” in 1998 when Laura Davies missed a putt. When asked if that was appropriate, Pepper replied: “I don’t really care.”

Finally, Swedish golf fans were left fuming in 2003 in Malmo with the decision for the losing singles players to concede after Catriona Matthew defeated Rosie Jones to win the cup. Quite rightly, U.S. captain Patty Sheehan wasn’t happy. She had no hand in a decision that meant her side officially lost 17 ½ – 10 ½, the worst loss for any American team until that point. Swedish golf fans around the closing holes were angry because they were denied the golf action they’d paid to watch.

Let’s hope this week’s match is remembered for the standard of play and not for controversy. The Solheim Cup has had enough of that already.

#JustSaying: “We're all good friends. There are none of the Americans – well maybe one – that I don’t consider my friends.” Laura Davies at the 2007 Solheim Cup

Photograph courtesy of the Ladies European Tour

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