Monday, September 21, 2015

Suzann Pettersen's Apology for Solheim Cup Incident

It's always sad when a rules controversy overshadows a golf tournament, especially one as big and as interesting and fun as the Solheim Cup usually is.

That's what happened at the 2015 Solheim Cup when Suzann Pettersen alerted the match referee to the fact that Alison Lee picked up her ball without either of her European opponents conceding Lee's putt. Lee said she heard someone say, "it's good," and that the circumstances - how short the putt was, the fact that both Pettersen and Charley Hull were walking away - convinced her the putt had been conceded.

It had not. And Pettersen called it to the ref's attention, who, after speaking to everyone on the green, ruled that Lee had improperly picked up her ball. Penalty stroke. Loss of hole. Edge to Europe, which took a 1-up lead and won the match on the next hole.

That's a tough scenario all around. And Pettersen was absolutely firebombed afterward by just about everyone, including many European observers, for poor sportsmanship.

Today, the day after, Pettersen posted this apology, which seems quite heartfelt, on Instagram:

I've never felt more gutted and truly sad about what went down Sunday on the 17th at the Solheim Cup.

I am so sorry for not thinking about the bigger picture in the heat of the battle and competition. 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.

To the U.S. team, you guys have a great leader in Juli , who I've always looked up to and respect so much. Knowing I need to make things "right," I had a face to face chat with her before leaving Germany this morning to tell her in person how I really feel about all of this. I wanted her also to know that I am sorry.

I hope in time the U.S. team will forgive me and know that I have learned a valuable lesson about what is truly important in this great game of golf which has given me so much in my life.

To the fans of golf who watched the competition on TV, I am sorry for the way I carried myself. 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.

Personally, I think Pettersen is getting way too much heat for this incident. We have to remember that it was Lee who broke the rule and Pettersen who was merely following the rules. The incident was entirely due to Lee's mistake in not being certain her putt was conceded.

You'll often see golfers in match play whose opponents concede their putt stop and ask again - "This putt is good?" or "You conceded?" - double-checking to make absolutely sure they can pick up their ball. Watch the Solheim Cup, the Ryder Cup, any match play tournament, and you'll see this often.

Lee failed to make sure, at a crucial moment in the match, that she could do what she was about to do, lift the ball. She just casually walked up to the ball and flipped it up with her putter. (European team captain Carin Koch claimed that Lee's teammate Brittany Lincicome was telling Lee, "Don't pick it up, don't pick it up." That claim, as far as I know, has not been challenged by anyone.)

I'm not trying to let Pettersen off the hook. She could have displayed great sportsmanship and let the breach pass. One can certainly argue that she should have done that. (And I would agree with that.) I do think it's completely fair to question Pettersen's actions.

But let's not rip apart someone's character over this. It was a split-second decision in a very high-pressure situation brought about by another golfer's breach of the rules.

It happened, it's over, let's move on.