Annika Sorenstam at centre of rules farce on return to golf

Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam must wish that she had stayed retired.

Making her first official tour start since 2008, the 50-year-old Swede carded a three-over 75 in the opening round of the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona. 

However, it could have been better but for a bogus ruling.

Ten-time major champion Sorenstam had to call in an official after her tee shot at the par-4 fifth hole came to rest beneath the gate of a house bordering the golf course. 

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Dan Maselli, the rules official who responded, determined that the ball had stayed in bounds "by a dimple". Sorenstam had suggested opening the gate to hit the shot but Maselli told her that wasn't an option. 

Consequently, Sorenstam ruled her ball unplayable, took relief at the cost of a penalty stroke and, finally, signed for a triple-bogey seven. 

Just one problem: Maselli got it wrong.

Sorenstam could have opened the gate. 

A change to the Rules of Golf in 2019, a gate used to get through a wall or fence is no longer part of the boundary object. Instead, it's considered an obstruction, which means that players are able to claim free relief. 

In Sorenstam's case, that would have meant opening the gate (assuming it wasn't locked). 

Even more incredible than the rules official not knowing the rules is the fact that there's nothing the LPGA can do about it.

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In a statement, the tour said: "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. 

"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 following her second round to explain the mistake and apologise."

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