5 Things: Controversial ruling steals spotlight

LPGA rules official Brad Alexander (center) talks with Carlota Ciganda (left) and the European captain Liselotte Neumann (right) as they attempt to figure out where to drop Ciganda's ball on the 15th hole.

LPGA rules official Brad Alexander (center) talks with Carlota Ciganda (left) and the European captain Liselotte Neumann (right) as they attempt to figure out where to drop Ciganda's ball on the 15th hole.

PARKER, Colo. – Carlota Ciganda broke through at the 13th hole Friday afternoon to win the first hole of her Solheim Cup debut. Two holes later, whatever momentum Ciganda had built through those 13 holes, many of which weren’t pretty, came to a screeching halt. So did the growing American momentum.

Ciganda and partner Suzann Pettersen both hit their second shots into a lateral hazard right of the par-5 15th. A lengthy discussion ensued with rules officials not only to locate the balls, but decide where a proper drop should be taken.

Crowds chanted their complaints and American opponents Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson grew impatient as officials paced around the area. European captain Liselotte Neumann was on hand, and American captain Meg Mallon arrived several minutes later. All told, the ruling took about 25 minutes.

In the end, Ciganda received an incorrect ruling from a member of the Solheim Cup Rules Committee. As the official in charge later explained, the point where Ciganda’s ball crossed the margin of the hazard was accurately established. Among Ciganda’s options was to drop on the opposite margin of the hazard equidistant from the hole, another point that was accurately established. However, Ciganda should have dropped within two club lengths from that point. Instead, she was allowed to take her ball back about 40 yards, keeping that point on line with the flagstick.

Ciganda hit her fourth shot onto the fringe and made the par putt to secure an unexpected halve with Lewis and Thompson.

“Obviously I’m not happy about it,” Mallon said. “The thing I’m most unhappy about is that it took ... about 25 minutes for this to happen. And from our perspective, the momentum, which was coming in our favor at that point in time, obviously had stopped.”

Questions were posed at the time of the drop, Mallon said, but perhaps not the right ones. Play proceeded, and Pettersen birdied the next hole to take the Europeans 1 up. They won by that margin at the 18th, when Pettersen made a clutch two-putt par.

“I wanted the reasoning behind it, but the explanation did not make it more clear to me,” Lewis said of the ruling. “It actually made me have more questions.”

By the time that first group completed the 15th hole, three groups were stacked there. Europeans Caroline Masson and Caroline Hedwall, 1 up at the 15th, won their match while Americans Brittany Lincicome and Brittany Lang took the third match, 4 and 3. The Americans halved the afternoon with the Europeans, and trail 5-3 after Day 1.

“If you know anything in sports, you know momentum is everything,” Mallon said.

The ruling will stand because it was given to Ciganda incorrectly. As Mallon said, it’s now a moot point.

Despite halving the 15th, it was among the parts of Ciganda’s Solheim Cup debut that seemed like they couldn’t have gone any worse.

“It was very stressful at the time,” Ciganda said of the early holes, where she struggled to contribute.

As for the Americans, Mallon knows she may have to go home and help Lewis with a rally – if she hasn’t already rallied herself.

“As far as moving on, the good thing is we are only two points down and, if anything, this just gives everyone more motivation,” Lewis said.

• • •

2. PETTERSEN PILES UP POINTS: The 15th hole aside, one got the idea at the end of the first four-ball match that Pettersen had earned something more than just a single check in her Solheim Cup victory column. Pettersen – an intimidating presence on the course, especially in match play – grinded all day long.

She was a cheerleader, too. At the 18th, as the Europeans fought to keep their 1-up advantage, Pettersen turned to Ciganda after Ciganda’s approach from the rough and nodded approval. She watched Ciganda’s chip break hard to the right and walked with it saying, “That was really good, that was fantastic.”

And at the end of the day, Pettersen gave Ciganda a hang-in-there-kid kind of hug. It was a rough day for the rookie.

“She was a superstar, she hung in there tough,” Pettersen said. “That’s why it’s four-ball; you play on your partners, and this is a fantastic point and I’m proud of her to get her first point.”

Now with 16 1/2 points, Pettersen trails only Laura Davies and Annika Sorenstam as all-time European points getters.

• • •

3. SOLHEIM STRONG: Caroline Hedwall was half of the Swedish tandem that Neumann sent out Friday morning to set the matches in Europe’s favor. Neuman called Hedwall and partner Anna Nordqvist her “vikings.”

Hedwall collected a second point with Caroline Masson in the afternoon, and was the only player aside from Pettersen to get two. It takes Hedwall’s career Solheim record to 4-1-1.

“I think we’re just playing really solid,” Hedwall said of her afternoon victory with Masson.

Hedwall, who takes an unabashed cut at the ball, overpowered a long layout. She’s even aggressive out of greenside bunkers. Standing in a deep on at the 11th, Hedwall looked to the crowd across the green and called, “People! Heads up!”

• • •

4. THE BRITTANYS: Like the Carolines, Brittany Lincicome and Brittany Lang also won their four-ball match, 4 and 3. It was the largest margin of the afternoon.

Lincicome and Lang also won together in 2009 (Day 1 four-balls), but weren’t paired together in 2011. They made their desire clear to U.S. captain Meg Mallon this week.

“I think just both of our personalities, we just kind of feed off each other’s energy,” Lincicome said.

• • •

5. WHAT'S AHEAD: Here's a look at the Saturday morning foursomes:

7:40 a.m.: Anna Nordqvist/Caroline Hedwall (Europe) vs. Morgan Pressel/Jessica Korda (U.S.)

7:52 a.m.: Azahara Munoz/Karine Icher (Europe) vs. Stacy Lewis/Paula Creamer (U.S.)

8:04 a.m.: Catriona Matthew/Caroline Masson (Europe) vs. Brittany Lincicome/Lizette Salas (U.S.)

8:15 a.m.: Suzann Pettersen/Beatriz Recari (Europe) vs. Michelle Wie/Brittany Lang (U.S.)

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