Explaining the weird and rare rules violation in the final match of Stanford’s NCAA Championship win over Oregon

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A rare and unfortunate rules violation occurred late in the final match of the 2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship.

While it didn’t necessarily decide the clinching match that earned Stanford it’s second title in program history, it certainly didn’t help in Oregon’s quest for its first.

After No. 1 Stanford stormed out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to dominant wins from Brooke Seay and Aline Krauter, No. 2 Oregon fought back to even the score with a pair of victories from Briana Chacon and Tze-Han (Heather) Lin.

It was down to Stanford’s Rose Zhang, who had a 2-up lead on the 17th hole against Oregon’s Sofie Kibsgaard Nielsen. While walking to her own ball, Nielsen ran over Zhang’s ball with her push cart, which in match play now carries a one-shot penalty. The incident is only a penalty in match play, but not in stroke play. That change in the Rules of Golf came in 2019.

Rule 9.5b states that, “If the opponent lifts or deliberately touches the player’s ball at rest or causes it to move, the opponent gets one penalty stroke.”

“There are a couple of exceptions, but what happened there with that incident didn’t fall under any of the exceptions,” said an NCAA rules official.

Zhang was on the green with her second shot despite a deep lie in the rough while Nielsen’s ball rolled off the front edge. Before chipping onto the green for what would have been her third shot, Nielsen was informed of the penalty and ultimately lost the hole, and the match, with a bogey to Zhang’s par.

With Zhang putting for birdie and Nielsen chipping for par, the penalty stroke gave the freshman Cardinal and individual national champion some breathing room. Had there not been a penalty stroke, Zhang still would have an advantage by being on the green in two, while Nielsen would have been playing her third.

“I just reminded Rose that nobody wants a tournament to end that way, but it didn’t,” said Stanford head coach Anne Walker. “At the end of the day, Sofie made 5, Rose made 4, and I want that to be for both Sofie and Rose to be the focus because no one wants a title to end that way.”

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