Altvater: Solheim Cup caddy controversy stirs emotionsWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Day two of the 2013 Solheim Cup saw more controversy. One of the caddies for the European Team attempted to concede a putt to Paula Creamer on the seventh hole in their fourball match on Saturday afternoon.
Team USA had battled back to be only a point down heading into the afternoon fourball matches. Captain Meg Mallon sent out the formidable team of Paula Creamer and Lexi Thompson in the first match out versus Solheim Cup rookies Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and 17-year-old Charley Hull.
The match was all square through the first six holes. At No. 7, Creamer faced a putt for bogey on the par-3. Her ball was on the exact line as her partner. Creamer’s putt could help give Thompson the line for her par-saving putt.
As Creamer was ready to draw her putter back to complete the stroke, she heard someone concede the putt. It turns out that neither Shadoff nor Hull made the concession, but it was uttered by one of the European caddies.
According to Golf Channel, European Team vice captain Annika Sorenstam was observing the proceedings at the seventh and told one of the European caddies that Creamer’s putt should be conceded.
Vice captains are not allowed to give advice or talk with the players. Only team captains are permitted to discuss strategy or interact directly with the competitors.
Rules officials were called, no penalty was assessed and players were told to play on. The concession did cause a disruption and emotions became slightly heated.
It was decided that Creamer did not need to putt and Thompson prepared to putt. Just as she was ready to stroke the putt, the rules official again interrupted the proceedings and held another discussion with the players.
After a total of 30 minutes it was finally decided that no penalty would be assessed and Thompson was finally allowed to finish the hole. After all of the commotion and disruption, she made the saving par without the aid of Creamer’s help.
Creamer glared at the offending Europeans as they walked off the green to the next tee.
Shadows of the great Seve Ballesteros seemed to sweep over the Colorado Golf Club and the Solheim Cup.
After the round Creamer said, “Things happen out there. It’s an unfortunate thing. I think you should kind of know the rules of match play for sure when you are out there, but at the same time, Jodi and Charley apologized for what happened.”
Was this an attempt at gamesmanship from the Europeans? Probably not.
Shadoff and Hull are both Solheim Cup rookies, as are their caddies. They appeared to be embarrassed by the proceedings and the caddy was certainly out of line for talking out of turn. Caddies have no official status to give putts to opposing team members.
Did the European Team gain an advantage due to what appears to be another erroneous ruling by the rules officials? That may be true.
If Sorenstam did say something to the caddy and he in turn disrupted play then it could be deemed that she affected play. That would be a penalty and the hole should have been conceded to the Americans.
Nevertheless, the subsequent discussion and ruling delayed play for 30 minutes, created an uneasy feeling among the competitors and disrupted play for the entire field.
Whether or not this became a factor, the Americans went on to lose the match two-up when the Europeans birdied both Nos. 17 and 18.
Anna Nordqvist’s walk-off hole-in-one at No. 17 in Saturday morning foursomes and the loss by Creamer/Thompson in the first match of the afternoon set a very bad tone for the Americans.
Team USA did not win a single point in the afternoon fourballs and face a 10.5-5.5 deficit heading into the 12 singles matches on Sunday.
It would take a Herculean effort for Team USA to win nine of the 12 remaining singles matches to eke out the 14.5 points necessary to win back the Solheim Cup.
It appears that the Europeans will retain the cup and win for the first time on American soil.
It also appears that the Solheim Cup is developing its own history and strained emotions among competitors.
This is just the type of controversy that creates a charged atmosphere around a team event like the Solheim Cup and will only help increase its popularity in the future.