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I threw him under the bus: Graeme McDowell apologises to Northern Irish referee after time warning controversy

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Graeme McDowell jumped 57 places up the world rankings after his win in Saudi Arabia

Graeme McDowell jumped 57 places up the world rankings after his win in Saudi Arabia

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Graeme McDowell jumped 57 places up the world rankings after his win in Saudi Arabia

It would have been easy to forget, move on and never mention it again.

But in the immediate aftermath of his first European Tour victory since 2014, Graeme McDowell made a point of publicly apologising to the Northern Irish referee involved in his controversial time warning at the Saudi International.

The 40-year-old went on to win the tournament despite falling foul of new European Tour regulations in rather bizarre circumstances during his second round.

As the Tour look to speed up the game, players must now hit each shot within reduced time limits and are only permitted one allowance per tournament before suffering a one-shot penalty.

Players can call one time extension per round, although as McDowell would later point out, that habit has yet to take root in the busy minds of competitors.

As a result, he neglected to alert the European Tour official, who would turn out to be a compatriot, of any such intention when standing over his long approach shot into the 470 yard par four sixth.

A delay in putting club to ball and, as a result, a warning was issued by Tour referee and Moira man Andrew Snoddy.

McDowell went on to bemoan the decision, pointing to the on-course interview he had conducted with Sky Sports' Tim Barter on his way down the fairway.

"I had just done the interview so I was 50 yards behind the guys (playing partners)," he explained on Friday. "I got up there, was first to go and I had 215 yards into the wind. It was a difficult shot.

"I thought he (Snoddy) would have given me the benefit of the doubt, but he was like, 'no, that's a bad time'. I'm like, 'brilliant mate'."

However, the Tour backed their referee, confirming McDowell had gone 34 seconds over the 50 second limit.

"Graeme conducted an in-round interview after his tee shot but this was completed when he was approximately 150 yards from his ball. The referee took the in-round interview into account and permitted additional time when deciding when to start his stopwatch once Graeme had reached his ball for his second shot and obtained his yardage," read a Tour statement.

"From the point the stopwatch was started, Graeme took 84 seconds to play his shot."

I felt like I threw him under the bus. He's trying to do his job and the referees on The European Tour run a brilliant show. Graeme McDowell

After seeing out the tournament victory and to his credit, McDowell was keen to make amends for his part in what turned into a highly publicised incident.

"I just want to apologise to him (Snoddy)," he said. "I felt like I threw him under the bus. He's trying to do his job and the referees on The European Tour run a brilliant show.

“I feel like he kind of got the brunt of the negativity that was created, that I caused him and I want to apologise to him.

"I felt like there were extenuating circumstances. They (European Tour) stood by their guys and hey, they are trying to apply The Rules of Golf. No hard feelings on my end. Once that was resolved, we moved on.

“It’s a new pace of play policy that needs to be enforced, and they are trying to make an example of players, not necessarily me, but they are trying to make a statement that The European Tour are trying to do everything they can to make this game faster.

"Big shout-out to the European Tour referees and everything they do for us."

McDowell had feared the warning could turn into a nightmare shot penalty during his final round as he and Victor Dubuisson lost ground on the group ahead while battling for the win.

"Victor and I got off to a scrappy start and found ourselves a little out of position," he explained.

“So Mark Litton (another European Tour Rules Official) is loitering with intent.

“I’m running around that front nine, and I spoke to him walking off 11, I said to him, 'We realise we’re out here and we’re trying but can’t seem to get back in position.'

“He said, 'I’m watching. I see the effort. I appreciate it.'

"I was glad we didn't get monitored and put on the clock coming down the stretch because that would have been something not necessary

"Thankful we all handled it well. I was really happy with The European Tour and the way they handled it, and you know, now we can all move on.”

McDowell will tee it up again this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as he looks to continue his quest to return to the world's top 20.

Belfast Telegraph