Officials' error helps Europe take Solheim Cup lead

Dennis Georgatos, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PARKER, Colo. -- European golfer Carlota Ciganda regrouped from a wayward shot, in part because of a favorable drop that was based on officials incorrectly interpreting a rule.
Ciganda went on to help the European women take a 5-3 lead over the Americans on Friday in the first of three days of match play competition in the Solheim Cup at the Colorado Golf Club.
But it turns out the Americans' complaints over the drop awarded to Ciganda were justified after she hit her second shot on the par-5 15th hole into a hazard composed of a rolling stand of trees and scrub brush alongside a creek. Officials later conceded they made an error in the rules interpretation.
Despite the mistaken ruling, officials said the results would stand.
"Everything stands," said Brad Alexander, a member of the Solheim Cup rules committee.
Suzann Pettersen and Ciganda were 1-up winners over Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson as the Europeans gained a split of the four afternoon matches after taking three of the four matches during the morning competition.
Alexander said Ciganda, through no fault of her own, ended up taking her drop in the wrong place.
If the rule had been interpreted properly, Ciganda should have taken a drop within two club lengths of where the ball landed instead of the alternate interpretation in which she was allowed to drop on the fairway approximately 40 yards further from the hole.
Officials took more than 20 minutes to sort out the spot for her drop, and when they allowed her a generous spot, Lewis immediately questioned the decision.
"She was quite angry about what was happening and I don't blame her," U.S. team captain Meg Mallon said. "They had the momentum going in their favor. People make mistakes in rulings. That's not my issue.
"We have four matches out there and we have officials with every group and it shouldn't take that long (to make a call). There were three groups on that hole waiting in the fairway for that long for them to not only make the wrong ruling but, you know, changing the momentum of the matches."
Added Lewis: "I'm very frustrated by the situation. I think there were a lot of things that went wrong within the ruling."
Mallon said while she and the rest of the U.S. team was unhappy, they also have to move on in the match.
"We have to accept that as a team and we have to go out and play our best and try to get those points back," Mallon said.
After getting the clean drop, Ciganda got her fourth shot within 12 feet of the hole. She ended up saving par, keeping the match all squared after Lewis missed a birdie putt.
One hole later, on the 16th, Pettersen made a birdie to give the Europeans a one-stroke advantage, which they hung on to the rest of the way to win the match.
"Carlota, she was a superstar," Pettersen said. "She hung in there tough. I'm proud of her."
Ciganda conceded she didn't play her best golf.
"It was very stressful at the time," she said, adding, "It was a great match and we won. And that's the most important."
Americans Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie beat Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull, at 17 the youngest to play in the Solheim Cup, 2 and 1. Brittany Lang and Brittany Lincicome also earned a point for the Americans, beating Anna Nordqvist and Giulia Sergas 4 and 3 after Lang buried a short birdie putt on the par-5 15th.
Lang produced a big shot to put the match firmly in their control on the 14th when she holed a shot from a bunker on the fringe of the green.
The "drop" controversy overshadowed some exceptional golf, particularly by Wie, who helped silence any lingering criticism over her selection to the team by Mallon.
Wie stoked momentum for her team when she chipped in a long-distance birdie putt on the par-4 13th hole from beyond the edge of the green. Wie pumped her fist and shared a celebratory hand slap and hug with Kerr after the ball dropped in the hole.
"When it went in, we just went crazy," Wie said. "I think we really needed that and it felt awesome."
Caroline Hedwall and Caroline Masson took another afternoon match for Europe with a 2-and-1 victory over Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller.
Europe won the last Solheim Cup in Ireland two years ago, but the Americans are 6-0 in Solheim Cup play in the United States.
The European squad got off to a strong start by taking three of the four morning matches in "Foursome" play.
Jessica Korda and Morgan Pressel accounted for the lone U.S. point from the morning session when they beat Matthew and Jodi Ewart Shadoff 3 and 2.
"I think we both played well out there today," said Pressel, who teamed up with Korda for birdie putts on the 11th and 13th holes to pull away. "We were a little shaky early, a little bit nervous. But we didn't make many mistakes and we were able to make some really good par saving putts."
Swedish golfers Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall put the first point on the board for Europe when they defeated Lewis and Lizette Salas 4 and 2 in the opening match.
Norway's Pettersen and Spain's Beatriz Recari gave Europe its second point when they beat Texans Lang and Angela Stanford 2 and 1.
A 2-and-1 victory by Azahara Munoz of Spain and Karine Icher of France against Kerr and Paula Creamer rounded out the morning session. Munoz and Icher strung together consecutive birdies on Nos. 8, 9 and 10 to seize the momentum in the match.
"We played well from the beginning and we had an amazing stretch on 8, 9 and 10 making bombs. That was huge for us," Munoz said.
Creamer said problems in their short game cost them.
"We just didn't make a putt," Creamer said. "We had so many lip-outs and it's just that's the way it was."

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