Posted by: happyfan08 | January 19, 2011

2010 Awards (6 of 10): Most Controversial Moment

Most Controversial Moment

And the Winner Is: Inbee Park loses JLPGA event with final round penalty

Inbee Park won 2 events in Japan in 2010, and lost a third one thanks to a penalty

Inbee Park was a rookie this year on the Japanese LPGA tour.  At her second event on that tour in March, the Yokohama Tire PRGR Ladies Cup, she was right in the hunt on Sunday when an odd thing happened.  Her ball was sitting on a severely sloping green, and Park, having not yet addressed the ball, was doing a practice stroke when the ball moved. “I grounded the club once, not addressing the ball, which caused the ball to move” Park later explained.   The rules of golf state that this would count as a stroke if there had been intent to make a stroke.  She claimed it was merely a practice stroke, and so should not have counted.  But the officials later deemed otherwise, she was given a two stroke penalty, and lost the event by one shot.

There were several odd things about this situation.  For one, it was a volunteer on the hole who pointed out the infraction; Inbee had apparently not noticed (no kidding!), and still didn’t believe it had happened.  Neither of her playing partners had seen it happen, either.  How does a volunteer have the power to call a penalty?

The penalty itself was not applied until after the round was over.  So, Inbee actually had the low score when she finished, and, according to her, believed she had won the tournament.  After her round, the officials reviewed video with her, eventually deciding that she had incurred the tournament losing penalty; the win went to Taiwanese golfer Yun-Jye Wei.  Inbee was still convinced weeks later that she had not done anything wrong, but was philosophical when asked about it:  “I was pretty disappointed” she said, adding “I had better be more careful.  I guess it was a really good experience.”

Honorable Mentions:

Michelle Wie grounds club in hazard at Kia Classic

Michelle Wie at the Kia Classic

Michelle Wie can always be counted on to provide at least one entry in this category every year!  She must be slipping, though; her most controversial moment of the season, while worthy, did not quite measure up to Inbee’s, if only because it did not really affect the outcome of the tournament (Hee Kyung Seo was going to win the Kia Classic no matter what happened to Wie).

So what did happen?  In the final round of the Kia Classic, Michelle Wie hit one of her shots into a hazard; nonetheless, the ball was still playable, and she decided to give it a go.  Before hitting the ball, which was on a slippery slope, she used her club to balance herself.  But you are not allowed to touch the ground with your club when your ball is in a hazard, and she was assessed a two stroke penalty.  Wie vigorously argued her case, saying she had to do what she did in order to avoid falling.  But the fact is, the rules are rules, so the penalty, while unfortunate, was without a doubt correct.

Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung DQed at Canadian Open

There were certain people out there who tried their darnedest to make what seems to have been an unfortunate mistake into a potentially career threatening controversy.  But in the end, two players were disqualified from a tournament and life went on.

In the first round of the CN Canadian Women’s Open, Shi Hyun Ahn and Il Mi Chung were paired together.  On the final hole, one of the players (I think it was Ahn) accidentally played the other player’s ball.  They finished their rounds, discovered their errors, and both were disqualified.

At least, that’s the official story.  Soon thereafter, one of the caddies supposedly accused Ahn of trying to cover up what had happened and attempting to rope Chung into backing her up.  In other words, Ahn tried to cheat, and only was disqualified when caught.  According to this version of the story, it would not be until someone else came forward that the players admitted their mistake and were disqualified.

This story was published on a blog, and before long, the LPGA called up the two players to investigate further.  Meanwhile, the story continued to get muddier.  The two players denied that they had conspired to cheat, the order of events kept changing, and one of the caddies accused the blogger of distorting his story (claiming nothing sinister had happened).  In the end, there was nothing but circumstantial evidence, and the investigation was closed with no harm to the golfers (other than the DQ, of course).

Perhaps there was something more to it.  Perhaps the golfers did try to get around the rules.  But you cannot convict someone in a court of law on purely circumstantial evidence, you need something more solid than that.  And you cannot destroy two players’ careers with the same type of evidence, either.  Rightly, the LPGA dismissed the charges.  Hopefully the two golfers will not have to deal with a bad reputation based on this incident for the rest of their careers.

Amateur penalized on KLPGA tour, loses tournament

This incident got a lot of press in Korea when it occurred last September on the KLPGA tour.  Amateur Soo Yeon Jang was playing at the KLPGA’s Hyundai Engineering Seoul Economic Women’s Open, and doing quite well.  Just the week before, amateur Hee Kyung Bae had won on the KLPGA; would there be two amateur winners in two consecutive weeks?  The signs looked positive.

When Jang made birdie on 14 on the final day, she moved to 9 under par, a two shot lead.  But on the next hole, her approach landed in the rough next to the green.  Her father (also her caddie) planted her golf bag next to her, with a club pointing the direction she should hit her chip.  Apparently she was unaware that it is illegal to do this.  According to rule 8.2:

Other Than On Putting Green
Except on the putting green, a player may have the line of play indicated to him by anyone, but no one may be positioned by the player on or close to the line or an extension of the line beyond the hole while the stroke is being made. Any mark placed by the player or with his knowledge to indicate the line must be removed before the stroke is made.

Thus, Jang was penalized two strokes and fell back to 7 under.  This was the score she had when she got into the clubhouse, and it was only good enough for a tie for the lead.  She later lost the playoff against KLPGA pro Jung Eun Lee.

Amateur Soo Yeon Jang's rules error on this shot cost her a title

Jang later blamed her father for the mistake, and said she would never use him as a caddie again.  Ouch!  When a Korean girl says something like that about one of her parents, you know she’s pretty angry; saying something against your own father is something that just isn’t done in that country, especially in the press.

Amateur Soo Yeon Jang goes over her final round card with rules officials

The infraction came to light when a TV viewer called in to report it.  It was apparently pretty obvious, as several spectators around the green also noticed it.  Jang never denied the violation and took her medicine without argument (though with more than a little frustration).

Biggest Diss

And the Winner Is: Hee Kyung Seo wins Kia Classic, Golf Channel focuses on Michelle Wie’s meaningless penalty argument

Hee Kyung Seo won last year's Kia Classic

This year, the disses were not nearly as annoying as usual.  Oh sure, there were plenty of horrible articles about how the Koreans were ruining the LPGA tour, women’s golf, and the prospects for World Peace in our time.  There was your average amount of catty banter on message boards.  The Commissioner tended to do a good job of mentioning the Koreans and getting them involved in the publicity for the tour, but there were exceptions.  But nothing particularly egregious, at least that I can remember.

This year’s biggest diss was probably the one the Golf Channel dished out at the Kia Classic.  Hee Kyung Seo, playing on a sponsor’s invite, had just accomplished one of the more notable golf victories of the year, becoming the only non-LPGA player to win an event in 2010.  But almost from the minute she finished her round, the Golf Channel switched to covering Michelle Wie as she argued about her two stroke penalty for grounding her club in a hazard (see Most Controversial Moment).  They followed her into the rules truck.  She argued and argued and argued.  The cameras spent untold minutes following this non-story.  Yeah, it was Wie, and the press here can’t get enough of her, but if Paula Creamer had won the tournament, I highly doubt they would have ignored Creamer or treated her like they treated Seo.

By the time they got around to interviewing Seo (she spoke English just fine, by the way), the original allotted time for the tournament had expired.  Those who had tivoed the tournament thus never got to see her talk.

Honorable Mention:

Golf writers and commentators wrong about how Shin became #1 player

No, Jiyai, you’re not number 2! You’ve just moved to #1 following this win in Japan

Jiyai Shin became the #1 golfer in the women’s game when she won the CyberAgent Ladies event in Japan and Lorena Ochoa failed to make the top five at the Tres Marias Championship on the LPGA the same week.  That event was also Ochoa’s final event as a full time player, and many in the media reported, erroneously, that Shin only became #1 because Ochoa retired at that time.  Not true: had Ochoa not retired, Shin still would have been #1.  Ochoa herself has never admitted this truth, saying in essence that she believes she retired as #1 because the rankings change was not announced until the day after she had retired.  True, but her status at the time of her retirement was in fact that she was #2, regardless of whether it was announced at the time or not (and she actually knew that she was #2, having been told what she needed to accomplish to remain #1).

Interestingly, the media seemed to have realized its mistake, and most articles published about it these days have the correct information.

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