Facebook Twitter

Controversial penalty hurts Webb’s hopes

SHARE Controversial penalty hurts Webb’s hopes

SOUTHPORT, England — Sophie Gustafson of Sweden stretched her lead to seven strokes at the Women's British Open Saturday as Karrie Webb suffered a two-stroke penalty for a rules infraction on the first hole.

The Aussie took a drop from a sprinkler head and was informed at the end of her round that was illegal. Her apparent birdie-4 became a bogey-6 and her round a 1-under-par 72 instead of 70.

With Gustafson shooting a solid but unspectacular 71 to lead American Meg Mallon and Kathryn Marshall of Scotland by seven shots, Webb found herself in a six-way tie for fourth place instead of alone in second.

Mallon, winner of last week's Du Maurier Classic in Canada, also carded 71. "I dropped it three inches away from where I was supposed to," said Webb, who dropped her ball within a club's length of where it lay behind the sprinkler head instead of at the nearest point of relief, as the local rule stated.

"If I had dropped it three inches closer on the blade of grass that was my relief point, I would have been all right. I am probably going to have to practice my dropping anyway because I don't think I could have been that accurate," she said acidly.

Webb said she did not object to the penalty.

"It's the rules. Golf has some of the most ridiculous rules and this is just another one to add to the list," she said.

She conceded she had erred by not calling for a ruling when she was on the first hole, but she misinterpreted the rule and did not want to delay play. She said she read the local rules sheet and also the relevant page in the full rule book.

"I should have just called for a ruling. I misinterpreted the rule. You think you are doing the right thing by not slowing play up and it ends up costing you two shots."

Rain had delayed play for almost two hours during the morning, before the leaders had begun, and the Royal Birkdale changed in character as the wind picked up after the rain stopped.

Only one player broke 70, American Michelle McGann with a 69 after an eagle-birdie finish.

Gustafson, after her 66 had given her a three-shot lead Friday, did not have to do anything dramatic as she more than doubled her advantage.

"This course suits me so well, if someone is going to catch me they are going to have to shoot a very low score," said the Swede, who tied for second place at this tournament two years ago at Royal Lytham.

Her closest rival after two rounds, LPGA champion Juli Inkster, had a disastrous mid-round that included six successive bogeys from the eighth hole. She finished with a 77 and is now nine adrift of the Swede.

"It is an untypical course, so it can happen to anybody," said Gustafson, who played with Inkster in the final group."

The Swede, 26, winner of the Chick-Fil-A Charity Classic in Atlanta this year, avoided Webb's mistake when she called for a ruling at the seventh hole after her ball appeared to have moved as she addressed it. She was told to carry on without penalty or without having to replace her ball.

Gustafson opened with a birdie-4, then rattled off 10 solid pars before missing the green at the short 12th to take her only bogey. Then she birdied the last two par-5s and is now 11-under for the last four holes through three rounds.

Mallon said she was saved by her putter throughout her round, saving par on several occasions. Her only bogey was at the second hole.

Mallon said the rain had made the course more challenging. "It was difficult to judge what clubs to select," she said.

Marshall also birdied the last two holes to draw level with Mallon in second place.