Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Padraig Harrington stoic after suffering harsh exit

Padraig Harrington

There aren't many professional golfers who reach the end of their careers without having suffered disqualification after breaching some arcane rule of the game.

Padraig Harrington reckoned he was 'a dimple and a half out' after he was thrown out of the Abu Dhabi Open for an infringement on the green in Thursday's first round.

The Dubliner conceded he was aware his ball had moved after he had brushed it with the back of his hand on the seventh hole, but concluded that it had rolled back into its original position before he took his shot.

Instead television replays showed otherwise.

“In slow motion it's pretty clear the ball has moved three dimples forward and it's come back maybe a dimple and a half,” Harrington said facing the press yesterday.

“At the end of the day that's good enough, but I wouldn't have done anything differently — there was nothing I could do about it at that moment in time.

“If I'd called a referee over it would have been pointless because if he'd asked me where my ball was I'd have said it was there. As far as I was concerned it didn't move.”

As Harrington did not call a penalty on himself he ended up signing for the wrong score — and it was that transgression which ultimately cost him his place in the tournament.

Mud sticks, as Colin Montgomerie found in 2005 in Jakarta. Some on the European Tour will always regard the bunker shot he took that day after a delay because of a thunderstorm with nothing but suspicion.

Of course, a certain sense of fair play comes into it as well as Darren Clarke demonstrated in a similar situation in the Irish Open the following year (ironically on the Montgomerie Course at Carton House).

Returning for a fifth day after play had to be abandoned the night before, the popular Ulsterman, having left his ball deep in heavy rough that Sunday evening, returned to find his lie dramatically improved by over-enthusiastic fans.

There was nothing in the rules to say he couldn't take aim for the green as caddie JP Fitzgerald advised. But, instead, he opted to chip out sideways, the shot he'd been planning to play the night before. The bogey five he took probably cost him the title.

If Graeme McDowell goes on to win in Abu Dhabi this weekend it will be despite the efforts of a viewer who thought he spotted the

US Open champion moving his ball with his club before playing an approach to the 18th. He hadn't. With Scot Elliot Saltman being banned for three months after being found guilty of incorrectly marking his ball on the green during a Challenge Tour even in Russia last season, there are those now starting to question if the punishment fits the crime.

After all, Saltman will struggle to overcome the accusation that he is a cheat when he returns to the game and that label will dog him for the rest of his career.

In most cases, mistakes are made in good faith and players would readily accept a one or two stroke penalty issued after the fact if their indiscretions aren't picked up until after the card has been signed, instead of disqualification.

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