Conceding nothing about the Solheim Cup: They should just putt them all out

On our buddy trips, we often pair up and face off in fourball match play, just like the American and European women did at the Solheim Cup this weekend in St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in Germany.

One year, when playing a close match at Butterfield Trail Golf Club in El Paso, Texas, I had an 18-inch par putt to win the 13th hole. I looked around, waited and heard nothing from my close friends on the other side. My partner and I even joked about the silence, but no "pick it up; it's good" came. They knew I could be shaky.

Sure enough, I whiffed, made bogey, we halved the hole, and I went to the next tee seething -- at myself mostly and, of course, a little at our opponents for making me putt. But were they wrong to make me? Was it good sportsmanship or gamesmanship? Does it matter?

Did it matter at the Solheim Cup Sunday when the U.S. pair of Alison Lee and partner Brittany Lincicome lost a fourball match in controversial fashion to Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull when it wasn't clear whether or not a putt had been conceded? Did a perceived lack of sportsmanship by the Europeans fuel the Americans' furious comeback in singles? Did the Euros feel bad about the way that match ended and let up? Who knows?

Did non-concession concession doom Europeans?

The controversy came on the 17th hole with the match between Lee/Lincicome and Pettersen/Hull all square. Lee had just run a birdie putt 18 inches by the hole, and while the European team started walking away (that's right; they were already leaving), Lee scooped up the ball with her putter, thinking the putt had been conceded. It wasn't, which meant that the Americans wound up losing the hole and ultimately the match. Pettersen staunchly defended her actions or nonactions (update: Pettersen has since apologized for the incident); Lee claimed she heard someone concede the putt; and even the referee can be heard initially saying, "The hole is halved in four."

But this may have been a move that ultimately doomed the Europeans. Hull, in fact, was so upset with the way she and Pettersen won that she was in tears after the match. And with the Europeans leading 10-6 going into Sunday singles, they would only win three of 12 matches (with one halve) as the Americans stormed back for a stunning 14 1/2 - 13 1/2 victory. Did the Euros feel bad, or did this fire up the American comeback?

Or was it simply karma?

Don't walk away while we're putting

In that match I had four years ago, my partner and I ultimately rallied for the win. Maybe my opponents felt bad about the miss, though I doubt it. My partner was the one who stepped it up on the last five holes, so I don't think it really motivated us. Maybe it was karma. Maybe it just happened.

What I do know is that my guys didn't walk off the green the way the European players did. At the very least, etiquette says the European players shouldn't even be moving (just as they ask the fans not to) while play is being completed.

But if the Americans are upset with the way things went down, is it really any different than what occurred at the 2000 Solheim Cup in Scotland when U.S. Captain Pat Bradley insisted Annika Sorenstam replay a chip that she holed for birdie because she went out of turn? (By rule, the Americans could have let it go, and they wound up losing the Solheim Cup, anyway.) Was turnaround fair play here? Doubt that one, too.

Perhaps we need a match play rule change

Rules are rules, right? But as I said in a previous article, maybe some of the rules should be changed.

Perhaps to prevent these sorts of shenanigans in the future, the Solheim Cup and Ryder Cup and match play at the higher levels should just simply require that everything be putted out. After all, is anything really automatic? Just ask Doug Sanders about the 1970 British Open at St. Andrews, where he missed a 2-and-a-half footer on the 72nd hole that would have given him his only major. Or, better yet, though not a household name, I.K. Kim missed a 1-footer on the final hole that would meant triumph at the 2012 Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA's first major of the year.

To further turn this controversy on end, while many thought Jack Nicklaus' famous "concession" of a "missable" 2-footer to Tony Jacklin on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale Golf Club was great sportsmanship -- resulting in a draw at the 1969 Ryder Cup -- U.S. Captain Sam Snead was less than thrilled with the move. Winning was more important. So it's impossible to make everyone happy.

So, again, although it would be less interesting, maybe we should putt them all out.

But only at the highest level, not in recreational play.

In my matches, I'll take as many as they'll give me. And I'll give as many as I can, hoping they return the favor. And I hope you and everyone else does the same. Anything to speed up the game and make us feel better about ourselves.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Commented on

Hullo MikePresumably the rules will no longer apply at future Solheim CupsLee apparently said that she thought she heard a concession (she should be believed); the Europeans maintain they did not concede (they should be believed). The referee should have invoked Rule 2-4/3 and the ball should have been replaced and putted.

Lee was wrong to pick up her ball. The rule in question is there for exactly such a situation and the referee should have applied the rules correctly (Lee or her partner also should have suggested such a course of action). Pettersen was entirely in order to require the putt to be holed.The Americans behaved very badly claiming that the spirit of golf had been abused and Pettersen has been hung out to dry by both ill-informed people and those with their own agenda.These are professional Sports people representing their countries and should know all the rules and play by them. Ignorance of the rules is no excuse and they should accept any transgressions they make as their own fault and not attempt to "pass the buck".Regards Peter

Commented on

It's long past time for rules for two levels of golf. Amateur's and Pro's need to play by different rules, because they are so different in talent. Four to 5 1/2 hour rounds of golf are far to common and it's killing golf for the amateurs. They try to imitate the pros they watch on TV, and it's leading to longer and longer golf rounds. Pro's get to their ball and don't even talk about the next shot until the other golfer has hit his shot. Now amateurs are doing the same thing, except they don't talk ( no caddie ) , in their case they are still sitting in their cart or standing around before walking to their ball on the other side of the fairway. They are putting marking, putting marking when they are not going to be walking in the opponents line. I could go on and on but for the purpose of trying to keep this short I will try and list the changes needed for better golf experiences for the majority.1) If you are not a single digit handicapper move forward to a tee that gives you a reasonable chance at par. Red tees are not for women only.2) Limit your practice swings to one.3) Get to your ball directly if you are not going to be in danger of being hit by your playing partners.4) Get your mental work done as soon as you arrive at your next shot. Get your distance. See your shot. Select your club.5) On the green get your line while your opponents are getting theirs. Respect their line and me ready to putt. Putt out if you are not going to interfere with another players line.6) Move directly to the next tee and hit in any order that takes the least time. I understand not hitting in front of a birdie and that shouldn't slow play down if the birdie player doesn't spend to long celebrating.7) If you are not a tournament golfer or a golfer who needs a handicap for events, play the ball up everywhere. As in improve your lie using your club head or hand to place the ball on the best spot you can hit it better.8) If you are a golfer who tends to hit a lot of shots in the woods, high grass or desert play balls you can afford to loose. Limit the time you and your partners look for your ball to 2 mins at the most.9) Keep the stories and great new jokes for the 19th hole.10) Eliminate the 14 club rule. If an older golfer has 16 clubs in his bag what harm does it do to the game. He can only hit one at a time.11) Suspend the anchor ban for all play for amateur golfers, except at the highest levels.  12) Remember that it only take one  group to slow the entire course down to their speed. Be considerate and don't say I paid $xxx and I will play however slow as I feel I need. Others paid also and they would maybe like to not spend 5 hours on the golf course. It takes everyone caring to make golf enjoyable for all.

Commented on

It's long past time for rules for two levels of golf. Amateur's and Pro's need to play by different rules, because they are so different in talent. Four to 5 1/2 hour rounds of golf are far to common and it's killing golf for the amateurs. They try to imitate the pros they watch on TV, and it's leading to longer and longer golf rounds. Pro's get to their ball and don't even talk about the next shot until the other golfer has hit his shot. Now amateurs are doing the same thing, except they don't talk ( no caddie ) , in their case they are still sitting in their cart or standing around before walking to their ball on the other side of the fairway. They are putting marking, putting marking when they are not going to be walking in the opponents line. I could go on and on but for the purpose of trying to keep this short I will try and list the changes needed for better golf experiences for the majority.1) If you are not a single digit handicapper move forward to a tee that gives you a reasonable chance at par. Red tees are not for women only.2) Limit your practice swings to one.3) Get to your ball directly if you are not going to be in danger of being hit by your playing partners.4) Get your mental work done as soon as you arrive at your next shot. Get your distance. See your shot. Select your club.5) On the green get your line while your opponents are getting theirs. Respect their line and me ready to putt. Putt out if you are not going to interfere with another players line.6) Move directly to the next tee and hit in any order that takes the least time. I understand not hitting in front of a birdie and that shouldn't slow play down if the birdie player doesn't spend to long celebrating.7) If you are not a tournament golfer or a golfer who needs a handicap for events, play the ball up everywhere. As in improve your lie using your club head or hand to place the ball on the best spot you can hit it better.8) If you are a golfer who tends to hit a lot of shots in the woods, high grass or desert play balls you can afford to loose. Limit the time you and your partners look for your ball to 2 mins at the most.9) Keep the stories and great new jokes for the 19th hole.10) Eliminate the 14 club rule. If an older golfer has 16 clubs in his bag what harm does it do to the game. He can only hit one at a time.11) Suspend the anchor ban for all play for amateur golfers, except at the highest levels.  12) Remember that it only take one  group to slow the entire course down to their speed. Be considerate and don't say I paid $xxx and I will play however slow as I feel I need. Others paid also and they would maybe like to not spend 5 hours on the golf course. It takes everyone caring to make golf enjoyable for all.

Commented on

Hi Mikevery naively to pick up a ball in play without to be safe that the opponent permitted it (it doesn’t matter whether opponent is in range of sight). And if a short putt is not given: to be annoying no reason, because if he is so short that it could be given, can one also putt-in.Regards Lutz

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