Armchair vigilantes claim Harrington scalp

GRAEME McDOWELL has labelled TV rules critics ‘anoraks’ and called for a review of the Rules of Golf after the shock disqualification of Pádraig Harrington from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Harrington’s name, lying in second place at seven under par, was removed from all the event scoreboards just short of an hour before he was due to tee-up at noon on day two in the UAE capital.

The triple major champion had been awakened at his hotel by European Tour Senior referee, Andy McFee who informed him that officials had received two e-mails after the Dublin man’s opening 65.

Harrington’s score was his lowest-ever new year starting round in his 16 seasons on the European Tour and it put him a stroke behind South African Charl Schwartzel.

TV footage clearly confirmed that Harrington, who is now sporting an R & A Golf Ambassador’s logo on his shirts, had inadvertently brushed his ball forward in picking up his marker.

McFee, along with other Tour staff, spent over half-an-hour reviewing the matter before handing the Irish man his dismissal notice.

McFee explained: “There is no penalty for that under the rules because if you are in the act of replacing a ball, provided the movement of the ball is directly attributable to the specific act of your hand moving the ball or coin, then there is no penalty. But the rule is specific in that the ball must be replaced.

“Pádraig doesn’t replace the ball and that incurs a penalty under Rule 23A and for a breach of that rule the penalty is two strokes. So instead of recording a three on the seventh hole he should have recorded a five. Because he signed for a score lower than actually taken then under Rule 6 -6 the penalty is disqualification.”

It is the second occasion in Harrington’s career he’s been disqualified, and also after recording a very low round.

In May, 2000 Harrington took a five-shot lead into the final round of the Benson and Hedges International Open at The Belfry in England. However, prior to tee-off it was established Harrington had not signed his new course record score card from the opening day. The matter only came to light when Belfry officials asked for Harrington’s first round scorecard to be retained for framing and display at the former Ryder Cup host venue.

Harrington took the dismissal professionally while accepting ‘trial by video’ is now part of the modern game.

“I’m comfortable with the whole idea if there’s people out there watching TV for any wrongdoing,” he said.

“I hope three’s 100 million people watching me play and checking me out. It’s good for the game. In our golf clubs growing up there was always somebody there who knew the rules and wanted to apply the rules. They were characters and added to the clubs. Yes, it does take a certain individual to act upon it, but we do need those individuals.”

McDowell also had been the subject of a phone-in rules query on Thursday with questions he had moved his ball forward marginally at address in playing his third shot to the 18th. After reviewing the tapes, McFee cleared the US Open champ of any wrongdoing.

“Anoraks! Too much time on their hands,” declared McDowell.

“If some guy is sitting at home and he thinks he sees something, is he protecting the rest of the players?

“It makes a mockery of the game when we are penalising players for something as crazy as that. The game has had a lot of bad press lately because of stupid rules.

“TV viewers are important to us, and high-definition and 3D and slow-mo add to the experience of watching golf on TV.

“But we need to have a serious look at the Rules of Golf and make sure that they are protecting people because some of these little finickety, stupid little rules, need to be looked at.

As Harrington is remaining in the UAE ahead of next week’s event in Bahrain, he has accepted an invitation from sponsors HSBC to conduct a clinic for young Abu Dhabi golfers this morning.

“I might make the first lesson how to mark and replace your ball,” he joked.

RULES ARE RULES ...

Rule 20-3 — Placing and Replacing

IF a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of placing or replacing the ball, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced. There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker. If a ball to be replaced is placed other than on the spot from which it was lifted or moved and the error is not corrected as provided in Rule 20-6, the player incurs the general penalty, loss of hole in match play or two strokes in stroke play, for a breach of the applicable Rule.

Rule 6-6 — Scoring in Stroke Play

a. Recording Scores

AFTER each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it. On completion of the round the marker must sign the scorecard and hand it to the competitor. If more than one marker records the scores, each must sign for the part for which he is responsible.

b. Signing and Returning Score Card

AFTER completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the scorecard, sign the scorecard himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible.

Penalty for Breach of Rule 6-6b: Disqualification.

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