Controversy surrounds the Solheim Cup concession that apparently wasn't

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Ryan Ballengee
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What do you care about more: getting it right or making it right?

On Sunday at the Solheim Cup, Suzann Pettersen got it right by the Rules of Golf but chose not to make it right in the spirit of sportsmanship.

U.S. player Alison Lee missed an 8-foot birdie putt to win the 17th hole in the deadlocked match she was in, teaming with Brittany Lincicome against Suzann Pettersen and Charley Hull. Lee left 18 inches for a hole-tying par, and the Europeans and their caddies had already started walking toward the 18th tee. Walking referee Dan Maselli even had started to announce the hole had been halved in par. Then Lee scooped up her par putt, swearing she had heard a concession from one of the players. She was mistaken.

Pettersen noticed right away, telling Maselli that neither she nor Hull had conceded the putt. After briefly speaking with both sides, Maselli announced the Europeans had won the hole, as Lee incurred a penalty for picking up her ball without an official concession. The Europeans were 1 up heading to the last. The Americans, going through a range of emotions after the sudden change in the match, lost the final hole, too, and the match point.

After the match, Lee and Lincicome were emotional, Lee especially, who walked away in tears. Hull wiped a few tears away, too. Pettersen was defensive, perhaps to her long-term detriment. 

Lee seems a victim of not trusting and not verifying. 

“I looked at it and I thought I heard it was good,” Lee said. “They said they didn't say it was, but I could have sworn I thought I heard it was good. To me it looked good. It was a really short putt, easy putt. And at the same time, Charley was walking off the green and Suzann was already off the green, so there was no doubt in my mind that putt was good. I didn't even think twice about it. So I just picked it up.”

Lincicome backed Lee's account.

“She said she actually heard [someone] say that's good,” Lincicome said in a statement released in between the resumed matches and the scheduled 12 singles matches on Sunday. “I don't know if somebody in the crowd said it."

However, under the Rules of Golf, Pettersen and Hull are in the clear: If they didn't explicitly give the putt to Lee, then Lee can't pick it up. 

European captain Carin Koch, who has been a follower of the letter of the law this week, including in a Saturday dispute about the Captains' Agreement between her and U.S. captain Juli Inkster, defended her player.

“It’s clear the putt wasn’t conceded,” Koch said. “Both Suzann and Charley agree, they would have made her putt out. Even Brittany Lincicome was saying `Don’t pick it up, don’t pick it up.’ She was screaming to her, but too late.”

Inkster said Pettersen's gamesmanship isn't something her peers on either side would do.

Then, succinctly, she wrapped up her thoughts on the matter: "It's B.S."

Pettersen reacted in the moment, pouncing on something she knew would give her team an edge. It's instinctive when the stakes are high and emotions run deep. While Pettersen's team walked away with the point and a 10-6 edge heading into 12 singles matches, needing just four points to retain the Solheim Cup for another two years, it's a sour moment in this biennial competition. 

After the Americans won in 2009 at Rich Harvest Farms in Chicago, the U.S. 12 were lambasted for celebrating too visibly, practically rubbing it in the Europeans' face. Butt bumps for birdies. Hair ties and face paint more reminiscent of an assumed victory than a business-like demeanor. Tired of losing, the Europeans vowed better and delivered emotional wins in 2011 and, for the first time on American soil, in 2013. They may not have panache, but the Europeans have passion and, apparently, an eye for detail.

However, Pettersen may have done nothing but fire up the American dozen. In the deciding singles session, the Americans dominated, winning 8 1/2 points out of a possible 12 to overcome a 10-6 deficit and win the Solheim Cup in the biggest comeback in series history.

Pettersen's victory was pyrrhic. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.