Padraig Harrington may prove perfect victim of game's TV vigilantes
It was outrageous, unjust, unfair and did a grave disservice to the image of golf. Yet the disqualification of Padraig Harrington from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship might also have an upside for his sport.
While he's the last player in the world you would expect to fall foul of the rules, Harrington's the best possible victim of the TV vigilantes.
It probably needed a player of the Dubliner's stature and reputation to drop through the trapdoor to persuade the game's rulers at the R&A and the USGA to take action.
How better to expose the current inequity in the rules than for Harrington, recently appointed as an honorary ambassador by the R&A, to be disqualified for not including a penalty he couldn't have known he'd incurred. The US and European Tours had already failed with an effort to introduce a rule change to prevent players from being disqualified for signing for a wrong score after failing to include a penalty of which they weren't aware. They got nowhere.
No great move for change was apparent either in the wake of the disqualification of Camilo Villegas in Hawaii a couple of weeks back.
Like Harrington, a transgression by Villegas was pointed out to officials by a TV viewer after he'd signed his card. It must be said the Colombian's error was obvious, while the Dubliner's was invisible to the naked eye. As we recoiled at the injustice, the R&A and USGA have revealed they will reconsider the issue of disqualifying players for signing cards which were correct at that time.
Mike Davis, Senior Director of Rules and Competitions at the USGA, said: "In Harrington's situation, he thought the ball was replaced and only television is telling us otherwise. He knew the rules, he thought he did everything right, he just didn't know all the facts. So the USGA and R&A will open it up again."
Clearly, Harrington was the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time.