Richard Kaufman gives his verdict on a stormy Solheim Cup
By Richard Kaufman
Last Updated: 22/09/15 12:13pm
Richard Kaufman reflects on a controversial 14th Solheim Cup in Germany and feels justice was done when Team USA pulled off a remarkable fightback in the singles to reclaim the trophy.
I don't know about you but I feel a bit better now!
Every good story needs to end happily ever after. And that's exactly what we've got now for the Solheim Cup 2015 story. As the plot and the mood darkened and threatened to leave us feeling down, good won over bad and then the villain finds an inner peace.
I had listened to all the arguments. I attended both the American and European press conferences. I had taken in the thoughts of my co-commentators, Dame Laura Davies, Trish Johnson and Nicole Castrale. I had talked it through with journalists in the media centre. And I didn't feel any different to how I felt in the immediate aftermath of the call while I was trying to make sense of it on air. My view? It stunk!
I don't know who had spoken to Suzann Pettersen from the time she left the press conference on Sunday night and woke up Monday morning. But she came to her senses. We all make mistakes. She made one on a very big stage. But she matched it with a big apology.
There's a difference to playing within the laws of the game and the spirit of the game. "Rules are rules" but sometimes right isn't always right.
Given the importance in these matches of team spirit, maybe I should have expected her to be backed up by Charley Hull and her captain yesterday. Suzann left both in a difficult position. She may also have believed Alison Lee's putt was three feet and downhill. She was wrong about that and I'm sure she was able to look back at the television pictures and see she was wrong.
Pettersen was the villain in the piece. But she wasn't the only one who messed up.
Let's start with Alison Lee. She made a mistake. In matchplay, you don't make assumptions. You wait for the opposition to say it's good. She made a mistake but I believe it was a totally innocent mistake from a delightful young lady who came across so well in the media room on Sunday evening.
Then there's the referee Dan Maselli. I don't claim to know all the rules of golf. I should know most of them as it is part of my job. But the ref on the course in this match could have stopped controversy. Given Lee's mistake, if he believed, as I have suggested, that it was an innocent mistake, he could have got her to re-mark the ball and knock it in for par according to the rules. Of course, that didn't happen.
Onto the European captain Carin Koch. My understanding is that she asked the rules official on 18 if there was anything that could be done. And here is where I believe the Solheim Cup was won and lost. I can't prove it and I know it's a simplistic argument. But if Carin Koch had stepped in told her players to concede the 18th, the overall scoreline would have been 9.5-6.5 and I believe Europe would have won the Solheim Cup.
Now this is not me sitting here smugly hours later thinking this. I thought it at the time. Don't get me wrong, it would not have been an easy call to make. Think about it. Koch would have had to make a call that would translate into telling her highest ranked player that she was wrong and that could have caused problems within the team.
I don't know Suzann on a personal level at all but I would get the feeling she wouldn't have taken such a call very well. I know she has apologised now but at the time, the lady wasn't for turning. However, by Carin Koch doing nothing, by allowing the Europeans to win the match, the moral high ground was lost and with it the match.
Yes, there were other factors. If Caroline Masson had holed her putt on 18, if Carlota Ciganda hadn't three-putted the final hole, then the Solheim Cup would still have been in European hands. But Team USA came out in the singles and played fantastic golf. How did a team that had basically been out-played for two days manage that?
Team spirit restored
Instead of being under pressure, on the brink of a third straight defeat, a team that consisted of 11 of the 12 who had been battered in Colorado went from a feeling of déjà vu to a feeling of righteous indignation. In a flash, the team spirit, the missing link in a team of excellent golfers was gelled together like never before. Now they had a cause. To do it for Alison. To stick it to Suzann. And it shone through in their play.
Yes, Cristie Kerr is a fine player but nine birdies in 11 holes? Yes, Michelle Wie is a great talent but to come out and make six birdies in the first eight holes? Angela Stanford bruised and battered by nine straight Solheim matches ending that run against the villain of the piece, Pettersen. A coincidence? Not from where I was sitting.
One last point. I have heard some say that the incident soured the Solheim Cup and was bad for the ladies game. That the female golfing showpiece has been marred by it. I understand those sentiments but I disagree. I don't know the viewing figures but I would hazard a guess that a lot more people tuned in on Sunday once the news of what was happening filtered through.
And what they watched was some great golf, a sensational comeback and a story unfold that will be talked about and remembered for a long time.