"Shocking" - Golfers React To Solheim Cup Controversy

Golfers have their say on the controversial Solheim Cup 'pick-up'

Madelene Sagstrom and her caddie pictured at the 2021 Solheim Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Golfers have their say on the controversial Solheim Cup 'pick-up'

This year’s Solheim Cup controversy (to date) has centred around another unnecessary rules infraction when Madelene Sagstrom picked up Nelly Korda’s eagle attempt which had appeared to come to rest behind the hole.

She tossed the ball back to the World No. 1 at the 13th hole of the Friday fourballs and the players seemed to move on.

The rule book says that if any part of the ball is overhanging the lip the player is allowed a ‘reasonable time’ to reach the hole and then 10 seconds to see if the ball would drop.

The on-course official deemed that the ball was overhanging the hole though the pictures (and gravity) appeared otherwise and the hole went the way of the hosts – they would win the match at the 18th.

Obviously I wasn't following the rules about leaving the ball for 10 seconds but I do 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,” said a tearful Sagstrom.

“I personally don't agree with the decision with the ball being on the edge, but I didn't follow the 10-second rule, so it sucks right now because I feel like I let my team down.”

So how could things have played out differently? Here's what golfers say...

The referee was right to step in

By the rules what should have happened is exactly what did happen in this case, I’m not sure why it’s still such a big debate. The European was at fault and the referee acted how they had been instructed to act. The referee thought it was overhanging - the European girls said it wasn’t, referee checked the video and decided she was right. Referee has followed the rules to the letter.


Balls can go backwards - so there was a chance it could go in. The point is that it is not up to Sagstrom, a youtube guy, or anyone else other than Korda or Ewing to decide. They are entitled to their 10 seconds. The rule is clear. Golf rules can be harsh. Unfair even - but it only works if people observe them no matter what, and don’t modify them to how they think they should be, or what the outcome should be disregarding the rule.


My understanding is that the referee was in sole control of the match, and as such she was obliged to get involved when she saw any action contrary to the rules. This is unlike a situation where referees are roving and potentially covering various games. Sagstrom was in clear breach of the rule in question. The correct penalty was applied.


The match referee had a duty to interfere as she felt she had witnessed an infraction. However in order to come to a decision she ought to have gathered all the available evidence, which would have included asking those closest to the action whether the ball was overhanging the hole.


Related: What happens when a golf ball is overhanging the lip of the hole?

There was no need to get involved

Ref should have stayed where she was supposed to, until called upon by the player (s).


Shocking from officials, and even worse from the chief referee. That was never going to drop and why nothing was said by the Americans at the time. They should have conceded the next hole (whenever they could have) in the spirit of fairness. All this has done has shown the Americans up and fired up team Europe. Win, win.


The official got involved when they had no need to. Either they were looking to make a name for themselves or the organisation were. An unnecessary involvement that left a bad taste.

Lord Tyrion

I think that been being told to intervene if they see a rules breach has just got the officials itching to get involved. If the referee was not standing on the green how could they say the ball was overhanging? TV pictures are never going to be conclusive on something like this and Korda's reaction suggests it wasn't going to drop. A can of worms has just been opened by the officials in my opinion.


Nobody in their right mind would pick up a ball they thought had a chance of dropping in. The referee should only have got involved if the Americans had objected, which they didn't.


They should have gone to the next tee without incident still all square. The golf had been great, fantastic competition and now all we're talking about is a bad decision by an over-zealous official and either a thoughtless or classless moment from the USA, depending on how charitable you're feeling, for allowing her to do that.


Rule 3-2d/4 covered the situation, officials didn't need to get involved.


The ball had come to rest and had been in that position for seven seconds. The laws of physics say that there is absolutely zero chance of that ball rolling back UPHILL to drop into the hole - the rules of golf might say different but the laws of physics contradict that.


Rules are rules, it's a crap decision given on the lightest of technicalities. It would leave a bad taste if it happened to me, and certainly feel like a hollow victory. I'd like to think that I'd concede the next hole to even it out, but I'm not sure that's in the US psyche, I am sure that if it comes down to a close result and the US win, they'll forget about it in a heartbeat.

Part of me would make them putt everything today, but that would just make me look petty, and lower me down to their level. Matchplay has its own integrity and sense of fair play, deciding when to give putts and when not to, we've seen a lot of surprise gimmes over the years in the name of fair play. Unfortunately the US team this year seem to lack that in their win-at-all-cost mentality, it's a shame, but if that's how they want to win, let them get on with it. Hopefully it will just inspire the European team to play with more desire and win the cup by a country mile.


Whilst I agree with much of what has been typed on the controversy, I wonder if there is an amount of viewing through a European lens. What reaction would the US players receive in US if they had "balanced the game". Remember the much-worshipped Woods received a lot of grief for the Molinari concession. Just a thought.


Never touch your opponent’s ball

I believe Sagstrom should have not been so naive and left the ball where it was, waited for Korda to get off her knees and walk to her ball and wait the 10 seconds. Then when the ball doesn't drop (which it wouldn't have done!), accept the gimme. All the talk of spirit of the game, 7 seconds not 10, overhanging or not overhanging is just noise that should be tuned out.


They should probably just get rid of gimmes in the Solheim Cup as they seem to struggle with them. Although that could lead to even slower rounds.


There was a solution…

Korda should have conceded the birdie putt for Europe on the 18th green, squaring the match. If she was unsure whether to do it or not then her captain should have told her to do it. Then Korda and the US team would have been sporting heroes and would have gone on with their heads held high to probably win the cup with ease and the incident would only be remembered for good reasons.

What actually happened is that the incident is now remembered for all the wrong reasons, the USA may still win the cup but the win will always be tainted. Personally I don't think having officials jumping in during matchplay is a good idea and doesn't keep up the integrity of the sport.


The rule hinges on whether the ball was overhanging or not, because the 10-second rule only applies in that event. The behaviour of the American players strongly suggests they thought they had missed, and were not waiting to see if it fell in, because it was not overhanging. The US players could have dealt with that referee's decision with a generous concession on the next hole on which one was available.

This has happened before, famously Nicklaus and Jacklin, and in football, teams have chosen to deliberately miss a penalty they felt was undeserved.


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Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.