The Golfing Legacy of the Suzann Pettersen Incident

The Golfing Legacy of the Suzann Pettersen Incident

The Suzann Pettersen incident - that's what it'll be remembered as, and remembered it will be, make no mistake about that - but what is the legacy of that incident on a September Sunday morning..?

Well, Sunday the 20th September 2015 to be precise, and here's a quick summary of what happened -

Team Europe were playing Team USA in the Solheim Cup, the women's version of the Ryder Cup. The tournament in Germany was going Europe's way, and Norwegian Suzann Pettersen and Britain's Charley Hull were in a close match with the US pair of Alison Lee and Brittany Lincicombe.

On the 17th green Lee found herself with a short putt, and saw Charley Hull walking off towards the next green. In the format of the tournament, short putts are often conceded by the opposition, it's part of the etiquette in a game well known for the weight it puts on the etiquette and respect for opponents.

Walking towards the next green tends to be acknowledged that the opponent has conceded the putt, so Lee picked her ball up. It's at this point that Pettersen said the putt had not been conceded. This meant the US team lost the hole by default, and went on to lose that particular game.

The rules of golf allowed Pettersen to either allow Lee to replace the ball and putt it, or even going down the 18th, the European Team could have deliberately conceded the hole to negate the incident on the 17th. Neither of those happened, and that's when it all kicked off.

Pettersen said in the press conference afterwards that she would do the same thing again, which did not exactly calm the already stormy waters.

Criticism rained down from all sides, from the US team, from other European stalwarts, to male players and the pundits. Yes, according to the rules Lee had made a mistake, so forfeiting the whole was correct, but it seemed clear that she had simply misunderstood the situation, with reasonable course, and the same rules gave Pettersen the right to fix it.

After the event, Pettersen issued a full apology, to everyone, saying she had been caught up in the moment, had lost sight of the bigger picture, and had let herself down, asking for forgiveness.

She can't really do much more than that, and now it remains to be seen how that apology is received, because after her initial defiance there lingers a suspicion that her apology might have been, shall we say, *advised*.

Legacy wise, I think the fact that the US team made a huge comeback to win the whole event will go a long way to lessen the negatives of the legacy, but since the Ryder Cup has lingering rancour which took a long time to go away in the men's, it might be the same in the women's version.

One thing it'll certainly do is lead to players at all levels making doubly sure a putt has been conceded before picking it up!

It could be that Pettersen will get a frosty reception on the US tour where she plays, but let's not forget, golf is supposed to be a game built on respect, and since she's apologised, the crowds might be gentle on her. They might not though, and it might need a full tearful TV interview before she's allowed to move on.

I hope she is allowed to move on sooner rather than later, and the women's game *is* generally even more friendly than the men's game, so it's possible.

The media won't let her move on quickly, that's for sure. It'll be remembered and linked to her name - me using the phrase 'the Suzann Pettersen incident' is not an accident, and whether she likes it or not, the two-time major winner now has a story that she'll be remembered by, a legacy I'm sure she wishes she'd never created.

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