January 21 — European Tour officials disqualified Padraig Harrington prior to the second round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship after another arm-chair ref alerted them that the Irish golfer had moved his ball illegally on the seventh green, according to the Associated Press.
Remote ruling. Officials received an e-mail from a TV viewer saying that Harrington moved his ball after picking up his marker. The player did not reflect the two-stroke penalty on his scorecard, which necessitated the DQ, senior referee Andy McFee told the AP Friday.
“The problem is that Padraig’s card for the seventh shows a three, and the fact that Padraig was totally unaware that this ball has moved doesn’t unfortunately help him,” according to McFee. “The disqualification is for signing for the wrong score, lower than actually taken.”
Harrington, who was one shot back of leader Charl Schwartzel heading into the second round, took the news well, as did Camilo Villegas in Hawaii.
Awkward. “You know what? A lot worse things could happen. You could be five ahead going into the last round,” Harrington reportedly said with a laugh. “It’s an awkward situation. Every time something like this happens, you want to try and gain something from it, learn something from it.”
Still, he said he knew he had touched the ball but that it had not moved.
“I’m well aware of the ruling on that situation, and it’s happened many times over the years,” he told the AP. “You know, I’m quite comfortable, if you touch a ball and it doesn’t move and you feel it hasn’t moved, it hasn’t moved, and you don’t need to — there is no replacing.
“If you called the referee at that moment in time,” Harrington continued, “in all good conscience, I couldn’t have put the ball anywhere else but where it was.”
It was not the first DQ for Harrington. After leading by three rounds at a 2000 tourney, he incurred the disqualification after officials realized he had failed to sign his first-round scorecard, according to the AP.
But these after-the-fact rulings from the bleacher seats are getting out of hand. After Dave Andrews, a New Hampshire golfer, tweeted and e-mailed PGA Tour officials about Villegas’ gaffe, the powers-that-be gave the Colombian player the heave-ho.
No McDowell gaffe. Just this week, during the same opening round in Abu Dhabi, a TV viewer (the same one?) informed Euro Tour officials that Graeme McDowell had moved his golf ball with his club after setting up for an approach shot to the 18th green — an accusation that turned out to be wrong.
While Harrington averred that sticking by the rules was “the best thing about our game,” he suggested that the punishment did not quite fit the crime and that officials ought to disregard rulings from afar. Players should not suffer disqualification after they sign their cards “and something has come forward that the player could not have been aware about,” he said.
“I’m comfortable with the whole idea that there’s people there watching, and I believe when I’m on the golf course I’m not going to do anything untoward,” Harrington said to the AP. “I hope that this many people watch The European Tour. I hope there’s 100 million people watching me play and checking me out. It’s good for the game.”