I was unable to witness the incident with Alison Lee at the Solheim Cup as I was in the middle of running the NCGA Valley Amateur Championship, but after hearing about the incident and some of the uproar I want to clarify the situation as it is really pretty simple.
Alison Lee believed that her short putt was conceded based on something she heard, so she lifted her ball. Her opponents, Charley Hull, and specifically Suzann Pettersen, denied conceding the putt and this was confirmed by referee Dan Maselli. So Lee was penalized one stroke, which resulted in her side losing the hole and eventually the match.
Rule 2-4 specifies that a concession cannot be declined or withdrawn, but in this case a concession was never made. Because a concession was never made, Lee was not authorized to lift her ball without marking it and therefore incurs the one-stroke penalty under Rule 20-1. This exact type situation is covered in Decision 2-4/3.
In the Decision, an opponent made a statement which the player interpreted as a concession and lifted the ball. The opponent then stated the stroke was not conceded. The ruling given is that if the opponent’s statement could have reasonably led the player to believe the stroke was conceded, there would be no penalty and the ball must be replaced. However, if the statement could not have reasonably led the player to believe the stroke was conceded, the player incurs a penalty stroke under Rule 20-1.
In the Solheim incident, Pettersen and Hull were adamant that nothing was stated that could have led Lee to believe a concession was made and the referee did not hear anything resembling a concession either, so Lee incurred the penalty. While a lot has been made out of the sportsmanship behind the concession denial, the simple fact is that Lee should never have lifted the ball without being sure it had been conceded.
Truthfully, this is a pretty simple ruling with a whole lot of irrelevant noise surrounding it.
— Ryan Farb, NCGA Manager of Rules Education
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