The LPGA Tour’s return to matchplay as an official event had a dramatic and controversial start today. With a birdie on the 18th hole, four-time Solheim Cup veteran Carlota Ciganda of Spain thought she’d won her opening group-play match over American Sarah Schmezel.

But in the scoring area at Shadow Creek, Ciganda was informed by LPGA officials that she was being assessed a slow-play penalty and had thus lost the 18th hole and the match. On the LPGA’s website, Ciganda’s score is listed as a 9 on the par-5 finisher, while Schmezel recorded a 5.

The LPGA issued this statement:

On the 18th hole of her Day One match, Carlota Ciganda was assessed a loss-of-hole penalty for a breach of the LPGA’s Match-Play Pace of Play Policy. Per the policy, a player is subject to penalty if she exceeds the allotted time for her total strokes taken on a hole by more than 10 seconds, averaging 30 seconds per shot. Ciganda exceeded the allotted time for the number of strokes taken on the 18th hole.

It made for an interesting opening day for the Bank of Hope LPGA Match Play, which is the tour’s first matchplay event since 2017.

Because the early part of the tournament involves 16 groups of four players in a round-robin format, the loss doesn’t knock Ciganda out of the tournament. Schmezel moved to the top of Group 16 by earning one point, while in the group’s other match, Ariya Jutanugarn and Lauren Stephenson finished all-square when each player made birdie the last hole.

The slow-play ruling against Ciganda was not the first or most costly – yet – on the LPGA this season. At the Kia Classic in April, former US Girls’ Junior champion Yealimi Noh received a $US10,000 fine for slow play. The fine was larger than normal because Noh had been fined for slow play in 2020.

PHOTO: Jim Watson