Carlota Ciganda claims officials are targeting her unfairly over slow play

Carlota Ciganda of Spain plays her second shot on the 7th hole on Day One of the AIG Women's Open at Walton Heath Golf Club on August 10, 2023 in Tadworth, England.

Carlota Ciganda – Getty Images/Luke Walker

When even your own Solheim Cup captain is telling you “for everyone’s sake, just speed up” and the collision against Team USA is only a month away, surely it is possible to understand that you have a pace-of-play problem?

But, no, Carlota Ciganda continues to protest her innocence, insisting she is being targeted by the referees because of her reputation.

After a two-under 70 here at the AIG Women’s Open, which left the Spaniard two off the first-round pace set by American Ally Ewing, she made an impassioned plea for clemency. “It’s unfair,” Ciganda said. “I am a nice person and I respect everyone when I play, so I just hope they can do the same with me.”

Two weeks ago at the Evian Championship – the season’s fourth major – Ciganda was hit with a two-shot penalty for breaches of the stopwatch, but refused to sign the resulting scorecard when her second-round 72 became a 74. She was duly disqualified and embarked on a social-media rant, accusing the officials of “not understanding what professional golf is about”.

Tellingly, however, there was little, if any, sympathy in the locker room. World no 1 Nelly Korda said: “I enjoy playing with her but The Rules of Golf are The Rules of Golf and they should be enforced and it’s good that they are.”

Earlier this week, Suzann Pettersen, who is the Europe captain for the match in Spain in five weeks’ time, chimed in. Ciganda – who is all but certain to earn a sixth appearance in the blue and gold – lost a matchplay encounter to American Sarah Schmezel because of a slow-play penalty on the last hole two years ago. If the visitors want to rattle Ciganda, who will be the local hero at Finca Cortesin, they must now be certain of her weak spot.

Carlota Ciganda of Spain tees off on the 1st hole on Day One of the AIG Women's Open at Walton Heath Golf Club on August 10, 2023 in Tadworth, England

CIganda sits two strokes off the lead of the Women’s Open at Walton Heath – Getty Images/Richard Heathcote

“I mean, she’s got to take the point and speed up, right?” Pettersen said. “She’s obviously not one of the fastest players to start. She had a couple of incidents in the Evian. She disagreed with what the rules official had to say and that’s on her. But I guess speeding up would solve that issue.”

Ciganda is simply not having it. “Some players, they play quicker and some players, they are slower,” she said after a fine and, in the circumstances, gutsy morning’s work featuring three birdies and one bogey. “I mean, of course, I can be quicker, but a lot of them can be quicker too.

“I know I’m not quick, like I know that there are a lot of quicker players out there. I think there are a lot of slow players and they don’t get penalised and they don’t get timed as much as I do.”

Many golf fans will no doubt exclaim “hallelujah!” to the fact that in the women’s game sanctions are being applied to the snails. In the male game, the PGA Tour has failed to impose a slow-play penalty in an individual event for almost 30 years, while one of the few punishments dished out in the majors was to the 14-year-old Tianlang Guan from China.

The scourge of 5hr 30min rounds has become increasingly prevalent but the mitigation presented is that the rule itself is too vague. Ciganda criticised the regulation and, in truth, it is not even a “rule” but a “recommendation”.

Rule 5.6b says: “It is recommended that the player make the stroke in no more than 40 seconds after he or she is (or should be) able to play without interference or distraction.”

Ciganda claims the Evian penalty arrived after she took 52 seconds. “They always say the time starts when it’s your turn to play, but when is that?” Ciganda, the world No 31, said. “It’s just so subjective. If they put a referee in every group, a lot of girls will be penalised and I think sometimes it’s not fair. It’s not something that I can control so I don’t want to think too much.”

Ewing is one clear of a group in second including Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen and France’s Perrine Delacour, with Charley Hull the best-placed Englishwoman on one-under. Korda and Ireland’s Leona Maguire are one further back.

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