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Undue Influence Undermined Women’s Open

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters. Picture Supplied by Action Images.

By now, the golf world has moved on to the happenings across the pond at Royal Troon.

But there’s something sticking in my craw about the U.S. Women’s Open, specifically the way it ended last Sunday.

The record will show that Brittany Lang defeated Anna Nordqvist by three strokes in a three-hole aggregate playoff at CordeValle in Northern California. Two of those strokes, as we all know, were the result of a penalty the USGA assessed Nordqvist for touching sand with her club in a fairway bunker before hitting her approach shot on the second playoff hole.

A TV camera detected the movement of what appeared to be a single speck of sand while Nordqvist addressed her ball, and the movement could only be discerned with an extreme close-up shot.

As The Post’s Steve Eubanks reported from the championship, a Fox Sports call to USGA officials set the events in motion that culminated with the penalty. A USGA staffer monitoring the coverage had watched Nordqvist’s stroke three times and had not seen any potential rules issues, John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of rules and competitions, told the on-site media.

But the call from Fox prompted USGA officials to visit the broadcast compound for further review which, with high-definition replay assistance, revealed the rules violation, Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer’s version of events, to me, begs the question: Since when is a broadcaster in the business of officiating golf tournaments? Golf, we’re told, is a game of honor in which players call penalties on themselves. It should have been incumbent on Nordqvist to assess herself a penalty if she were aware she had committed a violation; and if her violation was unwitting, as it apparently was in this case, it should have been up to the USGA – and the USGA alone – to adjudicate.

A broadcaster’s role is just that – to broadcast the tournament. Perhaps this view is naive, given the big-money partnership between Fox and the USGA. Still, I can’t help but think that Fox overstepped its bounds, thereby becoming part of the story and influencing the outcome of a national championship. Which is a shame for the fans, who were robbed of a potential dramatic finish; for Lang, who will always have a figurative asterisk attached to her victory; and for Nordqvist, who will have to live with losing on a high-tech technicality.


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