Wow. ‘Tis the week of marker-related rules infractions! Padraig Harrington has just been disqualified from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for incorrectly replacing his ball during yesterday’s 65.
The incident that sparked controversy took place on the seventh green, when Harrington’s hand inadvertently brushed the back of his ball as it rested in front of its marker. Harrington himself explains the subsequent confusion:
“I was aware I hit the ball picking up my coin. I looked down at the time and was pretty sure it had just oscillated and had not moved, so I continued on… 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.”
A dimple and a half. Sickening. As usual with these things, the incident was flagged by a televison viewer (one with HD, I’m guessing) and brought to the attention of European Tour refereee Andy McFee. Given the messsage finally reached its destination after Harrington had already signed his scorecard, he wasn’t eligible for a two-shot penalty and instead had to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t be teeing off for the second round.
Strangely, this is by no means the most difficult rules decision of Harrington’s career. Back in 2000, he was disqualified from the Benson & Hedges International Open at the Belfy on the eve of his entering the final round with a five-shot lead.
While Harrington will find a way to put today’s events in perspective– he’s good at rationally approaching hardship, in case you haven’t noticed– the incident looks set to rekindle the debate about the extent to which viewers should be able to influence refereeing decisions at tournaments.