‘This is eating me inside’: Rules official apologizes for Annika Sorenstam ruling error

Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam hits her tee shot on Friday on the 16th hole at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club.

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Annika Sorenstam, the Hall of Famer and 10-time major champion playing in her first tournament since 2008, shot a three-over 75 during Thursday’s first round of the Gainbridge LPGA.

It should have been one stroke better. 

Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam holds her own in first competitive LPGA start since 2008
By: Jessica Marksbury

On the par-4 5th hole at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club, Sorenstam hit her tee shot left, and her ball settled underneath the gate of a fence of a neighboring property, but remained in bounds, according to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols. After consulting with a rules official, Sorenstam took an unplayable drop and a penalty stroke, which led to a triple-bogey 7. According to Nichols, Sorenstam had wanted to open the gate and hit her second shot, but the official determined she couldn’t.

In fact, Sorenstam could have. 

According to a boundary object interpretation in the Rules of Golf, “a gate for getting through a boundary wall or fence is not part of the boundary object. Such a gate is an obstruction unless the Committee chooses to define it as an integral object.” That rule was updated at the start of 2019. 

The LPGA addressed the error on Friday through a statement, but said it could not correct the mistake.

“Regarding the Ruling given to Annika Sorenstam on the fifth hole during the first round of the 2021 Gainbridge LPGA, the official on scene linked the word ‘integral’ to the gate meant that it could not be moved,” the statement said. “This was an error under the definition of an Immovable Obstruction in the Rules of Golf. The gate is considered moveable if proven to be unlocked (Rule 16), and therefore could have been moved to allow the player to hit the shot.

“The option to rescind the penalty is not available under the Rules of Golf. The official met the player immediately after her second round to explain the mistake and apologize.”

Sorenstam, after shooting a one-under 71 in Friday’s second round, said the rules official “said he was wrong.” When she finished on Friday, she was projected to make the cut for the weekend on the number, and she would end up doing so. 

“He said, ‘This is going to hurt me. This is eating me inside,’” Sorenstam said. “I said, ‘Please, please don’t feel that way. I appreciate it.’ He said, ‘I won’t make that mistake again.’ I said, ‘Well, I won’t hit there anymore.’

“You know, those things happen. The rules have changed. That’s the way it goes.”

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor