Controversy - and a 30-minute discussion on the 18th hole - surrounded Annika Sorenstam's tee shot on the 18th hole at the end of her first round in the ADT Championship today. After hitting the ball in a bunker inside a marked lateral water hazard, Sorenstam was given a drop near the back edge of the bunker and hit the green with her third shot. Paula Creamer, Sorenstam's playing competitor and Kay Cockerill, on-course commentator for The Golf Channel, disagreed. They contended that the ball never crossed the hazard line. If that were true, Sorenstam would most likely return to the tee to hit her third shot.
Annika, using her 4+wood, immediately knew the shot was bad. The 18th hole at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, FL turns right just as the 18th at Pebble Beach turns left. Two bunkers left and one right form a "gate" of sorts, and the right-hand one butts right up against a lateral water hazard. Sorenstam and Creamer discussed whether to play a provisional or to look for the ball before leaving the tee. When they walked to the ball, the found it buried in the sand, inches from the water and a foot or so inside the lateral hazard line.
Paula Creamer, then one shot behind Sorenstam and safely in the middle of the fairway, was visibly upset that her word was not being taken seriously. She appeared afraid to assert herself and near tears as Annika continued to assert that she had hit a "banana ball" that was sure to have crossed the hazard line before cutting back inside the hazard. Kay Cockerill agreed, saying "it never appeared to me to make landfall" and "it was a small cut, but I wouldn't call it a banana ball. It was moving a little left to right."
An elderly gentleman, the scorer for the group, was asked in the 30-minute discussion and told the rules official that he saw the ball bounce on grass and trickle into the bunker, a statement that both Sorenstam and Creamer (and film footage of the shot) refuted easily - the ball had clearly landed and plugged. Film footage of the shot was not at an angle that allowed us to see how much "banana" the ball's flight had in it.
Because the shape of the hole bends in from the left so much, if Sorenstam's ball did not cross the hazard near the bunker it would not have crossed it until quite a bit further back - far enough back that she'd have been better off hitting her third from the tee.
Eventually, and for reasons I still don't quite understand, Sorenstam's word was taken and Creamer's and Cockerill's was ignored. Sorenstam was allowed to drop in the drop area behind the bunker and played her third to the green, gaining a 220-yard advantage over having to re-tee the ball. She three-putted for a double-bogey to drop out of the lead and into a tie for third. Paula Creamer parred the 18th to remain one back of first-round leader Hee-Won Han.
1 Hee-Won Han -5 67 2 Paula Creamer -4 68 T3 Michele Redman -3 69 T3 Liselotte Neumann -3 69 T3 Soo-Yun Kang -3 69 T3 Annika Sorenstam -3 69 7 Catriona Matthew -2 70 T8 Heather Bowie -1 71 T8 Candie Kung -1 71 T10 Karrie Webb E 72 T10 Christina Kim E 72 T10 Lorie Kane E 72 T10 Birdie Kim E 72 T10 Meena Lee E 72
The second round will be played tomorrow.
Update: SI (via the AP) now has something on the story: Creamer calls out Sorenstam. It'll be interesting to see where this takes us…