Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Martin Kaymer on march as unlucky Padraig Harrington packs his bags

Martin Kaymer is on course to retain the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and take the world number two spot off Tiger Woods after a scintillating second-round 65.

But that was not the story of the day in the desert. Padraig Harrington's disqualification when lying in second place was the big talking point — and it might lead to a change in the rules of golf.

Even the referee who called the three-time major winner in to study a slow-motion video of him replacing his ball on the seventh green in his opening 65 said that the punishment did not fit the crime.

In the week that Scot Elliot Saltman was given a three-month ban after being accused of repeatedly moving his ball forward after marking it, there was no suggestion of Harrington trying to gain an advantage.

But the fact that his ball was deemed to have been accidentally nudged a tiny fraction of an inch was enough to put him out of the £1.7million event.

Harrington, who would have received only a two-stroke penalty if the incident had come to light before he signed his scorecard, said: “It seems harsh — it feels harsh.

“But the rule is there for other and bigger reasons and we love the fact that we have the best game in the world when it comes to the rules.

“It's an absolute game of honour and even if a player is seen to breach rules and can't be caught out by the officials he would be ostracised and have a very lonely life on the Tour.

“It gives us the higher ground, let's say.

“It's a dimple and a half today, half an inch tomorrow, an inch next week and then five inches the following week. If it's moved, it's moved — that's the fact of the matter and you can't argue over how much it's moved.”

A television viewer raised the matter of Harrington's ball rocking forward and then rolling back as he brushed it with a finger while picking up his marker.

Meanwhile, the Northern Irish flag is flying high in Abu Dhabi with Graeme McDowell, Gareth Maybin and Rory McIlroy all fighting it out for the big prize.

McDowell trails Kaymer by five shots after a second round of two-under-par 70 left him on eight under. Gareth Maybin and Rory McIlroy are both six under after carding second rounds of 67.

However, Darren Clarke is in danger of missing the cut after posting a 75 to lie two under.

Michael Hoey’s 76 leaves him on seven over.