While the Women’s Open is used to birdies, this year an unusual sort descended on the event. When Madelene Sagstrom teed off on the opening hole of her final round at Carnoustie, a clean drive down the middle of the fairway looked like a safe shot. Yet this was not the case!
The ball landed near an especially inquisitive seagull, which promptly swooped over and started pecking at it. To Sagstrom’s horror, the ball was knocked about 25 yards in the opposite direction of the hole.
The 28-year-old Swede had never finished higher than 11th at a major, having claimed her first and only LPGA Tour title in only January last year. For a nasty moment, a seagull looked to be dashing her hopes of success.
Thankfully, Sagstrom was allowed to pick up her ball and place it back to where it originally landed. She went on to come second in the tournament, scoring 11-under overall. This was only one shot behind the winner, Anna Nordqvist.
What to do if this happens to you…
Sagstrom’s seagull debacle certainly ruffled a few feathers among golfing fans, with fears that the same might happen to them.
And seagulls are not the only animal to worry about on a golf course. A gigantic alligator was captured strolling across a Florida course last November.
Whilst it is seriously unlikely that a ball will be moved by an animal, it is good to know what the rules have to say on the matter.
In the sport’s official rule book, Rule 9.6 has the following to say on balls lifted or moved by an outside influence:
“There is no penalty, and the ball must be placed on its original spot (which if not known must be estimated).”
This was all very well for Sagstrom, whose ball was moved just a matter of yards, but what about Brad Fabel, whose ball was famously snatched and dropped in the pond by a seagull during the 1998 Players Championship.
Well, the rules have this unlikely occasion covered too and explain that the rule applies:
“Whether or not the player’s ball has been found”.
Golfers need not worry after Sagstrom’s recent seagull experience. Though perhaps they should avoid blaming all bad shots on mischievous animals. Their opponents will start to get suspicious if seagull interference is claimed on every hole.