2016 will go down as a memorable year for the United States Golf Association but sadly, for all the wrong reasons.
Barely a month after the debacle involving men’s US Open winner Dustin Johnson at Oakmont, another rules controversy took the gloss off the US Women’s Open, too.
The richest and most prestigious title in the women’s game was marred by the handling of a ruling in the midst of a three-hole playoff between Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and American Brittany Lang.
The pair had finished tied atop the leaderboard at the CordeValle Golf Club in California and went to extra holes to break the deadlock.
On the second playoff hole, CordeValle’s 17th, Nordqvist found a fairway bunker off the tee and was faced with a difficult second.
She hit a remarkable shot just over the green and got up and down for her par to send both players to the par-five 18th still tied.
ANNA NORDQVIST NOMINATES HER FAVOURITE CLUB:
As the playoff continued, however, a close-up replay of Nordqvist’s shot from the fairway bunker showed she had almost imperceptibly brushed the sand with her club in the takeaway.
While it would be impossible for her to know she had done it, the high definition pictures clearly showed she had breached the rule.
What happened next, though, was what raised the ire of many fans. As they had with the Dustin Johnson ruling, officials came under fire for the timing of telling the two playoff combatants of the two-shot penalty to be imposed.
They told both players of the infraction after Nordqvist had hit her third shot to the par-five 18th green but before Lang had done the same.
Many felt the timing had a potential impact on the outcome with Lang having the freedom to play more safely than she otherwise might under the circumstances.
To her credit, Nordqvist handled the messy situation with class, sending out an upbeat Instagram picture and message soon after the tournament finished.
"Thumbs up for a great US OPEN! " Nordqvist wrote in the accompanying message.
"Proud of myself for the way I played this week. It wasnt ment to happen. Its blowing 35-40mph out there and I had a 5 iron downhill lie in the bunker on 17. It was obviously not my intention to touch the sand but it happened and life will go on. congratulations to Brittany Lang for a great week of golf!!