Justin Thomas has led the backlash against the LPGA, accusing the organisation of “costing” fellow American Nelly Korda victory in the season’s second major by trying to please a sponsor.
Korean Mirim Lee beat Korda and Canadian Brooke Henderson on the first hole of a play-off at the Ana Inspiration on Sunday night, but by then the purists were already in full cry about the ludicrous scenario on the par-five 18th.
The last at the famous Mission Hill course in Palm Springs features an “island green”, but in its wisdom, the LPGA elected to place a huge advertising hoarding across the back of the putting surface.
Many took advantage with their second shots, knowing they could not get wet and would instead get a generous drop behind the green. Lee, 29, admitted that this was her gameplan. “I definitely thought to utilise the backboard,” Lee, the world 94, said.
The tactic helped her to make the eagle in her last hole of regulation that forced her into the shootout. It was her third chip-in of the round, and her second in the last three holes. Henderson also employed the same strategy when she and Korda reached the 72nd and after taking a drop made the required birdie. Meanwhile, Korda played the hole as three-shooter and her two pars effectively lost her the tournament.
Thomas took to social media to vent his frustrations. “Cost @NellyKorda a major! Such a bad set-up on the last hole of a major,” Thomas tweeted under a picture of the offending blue “wall”. “It takes the thought out of, ‘can I hold the green with a long iron/wood and not go over the green in water?’,” he later added. “Instead it’s blast into the wall, drop off edge of green. Birdie (or eagle for the champ!)”
Judy Rankin, the former Tour winner turned Golf Channel analyst, noted there is usually a corporate grandstand there anyway but pleaded with the LPGA to fix the farce for 2021. “Today’s players are so talented that they would find a way to deal with an island green,” she said. “They do not need an assist!”