Jump to content
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Solheim Cup Rules "Controversy"




If you don't know what fisking is, take a minute to read about it here: 


1. the act of making an argument seem wrong or stupid by showing the mistakes…

I'm going to have a stab at fisking a terrible article I read from the Guardian's golf correspondent on the rules "controversy" at the Solheim Cup. If you didn't see the whole controversy, a European player picked up an American ball that was overhanging the hole before she should have. That mean the ball was holed with the previous stroke, and the Americans won the hole instead of tying it. Cue the pearl clutching from some members of the media, in particular this Guardian writer:


Europe lead USA 5½ – 2½ in the Solheim Cup after an opening day marred by controversy when Madalene Sagström picked up Nelly Korda’s ball too soon and was penalised

And now, for the fisking. It probably won't be as elegant as some of the greats at fisking, but this article was so bad that I wanted to go through it paragraph-by-paragraph to trash and mock it. 


The smell of cordite fills the Solheim Cup air once more. A contest which has an uncanny knack of throwing up moments of huge controversy has reverted to type in Ohio. Nelly Korda, the world No 1, was the beneficiary of an intervention from rules officials that left the European captain Catriona Matthew visibly riled. And no wonder; a key moment had been determined by a stopwatch and a television monitor.

The key moment was the European player breaking the rule, Ewan. The stopwatch and television monitor are not necessary unless she picks up an overhanging ball. And, neither were actually necessary in this case - it was so obvious that the Rules Official watching the group with her naked eye had already identified the possible issue before going to television. Still, the key point that Ewan glosses over: none of this happens if Madeline doesn't break the rule! The rules officials don't get involved unless a player breaks a rule. 


Korda’s putt for a three on the 13th during the Saturday afternoon fourball session rested agonisingly above the hole. In an obvious bid to speed up play – the match in question had earlier been warned over their pace – Europe’s Madelene Sagström stepped forward and tossed the ball back to Korda. Cue chaos. Rule 13.3b 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.” Sagström’s intervention was after seven seconds; 10 were permitted to Korda as per the rulebook. The incident moved the US to one up in the match, which Korda and Ally Ewing duly won by a single hole.

An obvious bid to speed up play? Come the f*** on. We don't need an excuse for what it was - a brain fart. It happens. Ewan, being a Scotsman, should know that what Madeline did did not actually speed up play at all. It would have been faster for her to actually set up for her putt and get ready to play while Nelly emoted on the green. 

Another question for you, Ewan. You're on site at the tournament. Did you ask Madeline why she picked up the ball? Did she tell you she was trying to speed up play? Or are you just coming up with an excuse to paint her in the best light possible?


It must be noted that Korda did not cry foul. The Floridian – on her knees in dismay – was clearly of the wholly legitimate viewpoint that her putt was not going to drop, save the miraculous arrival of an Arctic blast. The hole had been won on the advice and actions of the Solheim Cup’s chief referee. “It was never going to go in,” argued Sagström, only to be told that did not matter. Matthew disputed with the referee that the ball was overhanging.

Nelly said she didn't know if the ball had a chance to go in because she didn't get a chance to look at it. Sort of undercuts your first point here. 

Again, the hole was not won because of the rules official. It was won because Madeline picked up the ball too early. It is important to talk about the first thing that led to everything else happening! Ewan is very conveniently skipping over that whole problem here. None of this happens if Madeline doesn't break the rules. 


“It was definitely awkward, you don’t want to win a hole like that,” said Korda. “We didn’t want it to happen this way. It was very unfortunate. Hopefully they [the Europeans] are OK with us. We didn’t even have a say.” Still, having won the hole via such dubious circumstance,

Dubious circumstance? Infrequent maybe. Dubious? Since when is following the rules dubious? This is one of the highest level competitions for women golfers out there. Why it is a question on whether they should follow the rules of golf at all?


the US pair could have earned widespread praise and protected the integrity of the competition by immediately conceding the next hole and returning the match to all square. They decided otherwise.

This is hot garbage. Europe could have protected the integrity of the competition by not breaking the rules in the first place. The integrity of the competition is much more dubious if you don't follow the rules.

And why should the US give back a hole that they rightfully won? Are they trying to win the competition or get praise in the media? Sure, it would been widely praised in the golf media, but it might have also lost them the Solheim Cup. It came down to a pretty thin margin and every half point mattered.

Final question on this - is Ewan Murray an authority on the integrity of the competition? Or the spirit of golf? Ewan, have you cracked open the Rules of Golf about what the spirit of the game is. If you had, you might have seen this as the first bullet when the rules are talking about the spirit of the game:


All players are expected to play in the spirit of the game by:

  • Acting with integrity – for example, by following the Rules, applying all penalties, and being honest in all aspects of play.

The spirit of the game is following the god damn rules. You don't throw away the rulebook because your nebulous view of the integrity of the game is offended. And, to be honest, even though Ewan is a Scot, I don't really trust or care what golf writers think the spirit of the game is. Golf writers who apparently can't be bothered to turn to the first page of the first rule in the book do not have any authority on this subject. Even if they are Scottish.


Sagström, who was partnered by Nanna Koerstz Madsen, was visibly and understandably dejected as the match closed. “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,” she said. “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. I feel like I let my team down.”

I'm highlighting this because I really don't think Madeline did anything awful. She broke a rule. It happens. She didn't have any moral failing. The ball was not going to fall in the hole. She did not cheat or even try to cheat. She just broke a rule. I feel bad for her because I think it was an innocent mistake, and it sucks that she is taking it so hard.

And, I think this is the last bit I want to highlight, even though it's not from the writer.


The golf world looked on agog. Thomas Bjørn, the former European Ryder Cup captain, said: “Do rules officials in golf realise how unbelievably stupid they make our game look?”

Why is enforcing the rules make golf look stupid? If you think the rule is wrong, why don't you come up with a different rule that will satisfy you? As a former Ryder Cup captain, I think your opinion would be taken pretty seriously. Also, note that Bjorn is European and undoubtedly has a rooting interest here.

I actually think the overhanging ball rule is fine, and I'm not sure there's another way to write it that's any better. Maybe I'll write that up in a different post.

That's all the energy I have on the article. The rest of it is just a recap of the day. I've already put too much time into this. Do better, Ewan Murray.


1 Comment

Recommended Comments

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...

Important Information

Welcome to TST! Signing up is free, and you'll see fewer ads and can talk with fellow golf enthusiasts! By using TST, you agree to our Terms of Use, our Privacy Policy, and our Guidelines.

The popup will be closed in 10 seconds...