Edfors caught in ball controversy

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The Independent Online

A controversial incident on the 18th hole could cost Swede Johan Edfors his European tour career.

A controversial incident on the 18th hole could cost Swede Johan Edfors his European tour career.

Joint leader in the Madrid Open and coming to the end of his third round, Edfors – needing to finish first or second to avoid losing his place on the circuit – hooked his drive into the trees.

When it could not be found playing partners Graeme McDowell and Anders Hansen insisted that it must have been picked up by a spectator.

But, despite appeals to the crowd in English and Spanish, referee Andy McFee ruled that, with no television evidence showing the ball at rest and nobody saying they had seen it being lifted, he could not give Edfors the benefit of the doubt.

"I can't assume it – I need hard evidence," stated McFee. "It's not the first time it's happened and it probably won't be the last, but nobody has an idea where it finished and so I have to declare it a lost ball."

The 29–year–old winner of last year's Challenge Tour returned to the tee, double–bogeyed the hole and with a 69, dropped to joint seventh place.

He will resume tomorrow on 11 under par, two behind England's Paul Broadhurst and South African Darren Fichardt.

A stunned Edfors said: "It was not a nice way to finish. It's impossible to lose your ball there and it's quite expensive. I would have paid a lot for that ball."

Broadhurst, round in 68, commented: "It's career–threatening and there ought to be some allowance made for it. It keeps happening every week – somebody picking up a ball and stuffing it in their pocket.

"It's not on really, especially when you're leading. I hope he keeps his card, but he is going to be absolutely devastated. Hopefully it's not going to affect him tomorrow."

Hansen said: "It's disgusting." McDowell added: "I feel pretty sick for him. It's one of these freak things – somebody has got that ball – but he is good enough to come back and do the business."