The match was always going to be fiery. With Paula Creamer, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff, Lexi Thompson and the 17-year-old Charley Hull – strong personalities all – in the first afternoon fourball match on Saturday afternoon, there were bound to be fireworks. But the controversy that erupted on the 7th green exceeded all expectations and looked for a moment as if it might turn into a full-fledged fight.
A 446-yard par-4, the seventh was one of the more difficult holes on the front nine. So when Hull stuffed an iron shot to a couple of inches, the Americans needed birdie to halve. Creamer hit her second shot short, but Thompson hit a great approach eight feet behind the hole.
Then Creamer chipped long, leaving herself a 10-footer for par on the same line as Thompson’s birdie putt. Creamer prepared to play, obviously to give Thompson the line.
This was where the controversy ensued. European assistant captain Annika Sorenstam called to both Hull and Ewart-Shadoff’s caddies, and instructed them to concede Creamer’s putt. This was a clear violation of the captain’s agreement. Assistant captains for both teams are allowed to relay information, but they are not allowed to give advice. This was advice relayed to the caddies, and by extension the players.
Ewart-Shadoff’s caddie yelled, “That’s good, pick it up.” Creamer, who was standing over her putt, took issue with the timing and with the concession coming from the caddie and not the player. Ewart-Shadoff then conceded the putt to make it official.
While it was bad form, the concession was perfectly legal under the rules. Sorenstam’s advice to the caddies was not.
Thompson made the eight-foot birdie and Creamer screamed at the Europeans, who turned their backs and walked to the 8th tee.
The play from that group was extraordinary. Thompson birdied five out of seven holes between the 4th and the 10th and Hull birdied four out of five in the same stretch. Their combined age is 35. It is a shame that another rules controversy could overshadow the best match of the day.
LPGA officials were notified of Sorenstam’s actions, and Rules officials met to discuss the situation.