On paper, it very well could have been the biggest mismatch of the 2021 Solheim Cup. World No. 1 Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing, a two-time LPGA Tour champion in the last 11 months including the Bank of Hope Match-Play hosted by Shadow Creek, versus LPGA winner Madelene Sagstrom and Nanna Koerstz Madsen, the current Nos. 48 and 49 in the Rolex Rankings, respectively.
The underdogs struck first, going 2-up through two on a birdie-eagle start from Sagstrom. About the only thing that could slow the Swede down was a bee sting as she walked off No. 5 green. That same hole, Ewing sent a jolt of life into Team USA with a 25-foot birdie. The other half of the duo tied the match on No. 7, where Korda blistered a drive 310 down the middle, stuck it close and converted birdie.
“I think Madelene started off hot, made two birdies, and we certainly were a little out of sync for the first two holes,” Ewing said. “We changed our order and switched my ball number, and we got it back on track, started to play better golf.”
Ewing continued the wave of momentum, reaching the par-5 8th in two and two-putting before Koerstz Madsen responded with her own birdie on No. 9. The match was tied as they made the turn.
All was quiet until the 13th. Korda reached the par 5 in two and lined up a 27-foot eagle putt. The read, the roll, was all perfect, so much so that she fell to her knees as the ball sat overhanging the hole. But Sagstrom scooped up Korda’s ball to concede birdie, quicker than the allotted 10-second runoff waiting time, which was a point of emphasis during the pre-tournament rules meeting on Wednesday. LPGA Tour Rules official Missy Jones stepped in to share the breach of the regulation and that Korda’s previous stroke was deemed to be holed.
“Obviously, I wasn't following the rules about leaving the ball for 10 seconds. But I do believe in integrity and honor of the game of golf and I would never pick up a putt that had a chance to go in,” Sagstrom said. “I personally don't agree with the decision about the ball being on the edge but I didn't follow the 10-second rule, so it sucks right now because I feel like I let my team down.”
The scenario ultimately decided the match, as Team USA won 1 up.
“It was definitely awkward, and you don’t want to win a hole like that,” said Korda. “I got off the green, we were kind of talking and Missy already came up to us and was like, ‘I’m calling it in, I want to check it out.’ We didn’t even have a say, honestly. We told ourselves to focus on golf and finish it off.”
OFFICIAL RULING STATEMENT
Rule 13.3b states that “if the opponent in match play deliberately lifts or moves the player’s ball overhanging the hole before the waiting time has ended, the player’s ball is treated as holed with the previous stroke, and there is no penalty to the opponent under Rule 11.2b.” The chief referee, match referee, observer and TV observer all deemed that Nelly Korda’s third shot on No. 13 was overhanging the hole and was picked up by her opponent before the waiting time had ended. Therefore, her third stroke was treated as holed.