124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2


U.S. Girls' Junior semifinal ends with controversial tap-in putt

July 28, 2017

This one hurts to watch. Elizabeth Moon had a three-foot birdie putt to move into the final of the U.S. Girls' Junior. She wound up walking off the green with one of the most painful -- and bizarre -- losses imaginable.

Moon's attempt for the win on the first sudden-death hole (the par-5 14th at Boone Valley in Augusta, Mo.) missed on the low side and trickled -- depending on what angle you look at -- anywhere from six inches to nearly a foot past the hole. Disappointed, the 17-year-old pulled it back (remember, they're playing match play) and tried the first putt again, this time making it.

Her opponent, Erica Shepherd, then said, "I didn't say that was good." Oh boy.

After conferring with rules officials, Moon was given a one-shot penalty for moving her ball (under Rule 18-2) since it hadn't been conceded and you can't concede a putt after the fact. Ouch.

“I thought that since I would have given it to her, it would be just fine,” said Shepherd Shepherd, a 16-year-old who has already committed to Duke. “I feel awful, and I feel like I lost, and I want to cry. I feel bad for her, but I couldn't do anything. We both tried to get it to where that putt was given to her but it just – it's the Rules of Golf. There's no after-the-fact. You can't.”

Here's a look at two angles of the putt that wasn't conceded:


You can see the whole sequence here, which starts at about the 1:55 mark of the video. Shepherd will play Jennifer Chang in Saturday's final.

“I made my [par] 5,” Shepherd said. “I hit my putt to a couple inches. She gave it to me. She had like a 5-, 6-footer for birdie. And, so I closed my eyes, because I thought she would just make it because she had been playing good all day. When I hear that the ball doesn't drop, I finally open my eyes and she's already dragging the ball back. And, then like my coach was like, 'Did you give that to her?' ”

If this situation sounds familiar, that's probably because there was a similar controversy at the 2015 Solheim Cup when Allison Lee scooped up a short putt she believed had been given to her. But Suzann Pettersen stood her ground that it hadn't, causing an emotional scene and a tough loss for the Americans, although they rallied in the singles portion to win the event.

Moon seemed to handle her heartbreak well, but she was also probably in shock. With a lot of golf ahead of her, she learned an important lesson: A gimme isn't technically a gimme unless it's actually given to you.