x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Padraig Harrington thrown out of Abu Dhabi tournament

Irishman ejected for ignoring an error when replacing ball on the green and signing the effectively wrong scorecard yesterday.

A dejected Harrington address the press conference after admitting that he erred on the wrong side of the rule book.
A dejected Harrington address the press conference after admitting that he erred on the wrong side of the rule book.

ABU DHABI // An armchair snooper cost Padraig Harrington his place on the tee for yesterday’s second round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

A television viewer e-mailed the European PGA Tour after noticing that Harrington’s ball had crept forward by a couple of millimetres as he replaced it on the seventh green during the first round on Thursday.

Harrington, who had picked up his ball and marked it with a coin, did not notice the contravention of Rule 6-6d and putted out. At the end of the round, he signed for a score of 65 – which brought about his disqualification yesterday morning.

Had he imposed a two-stroke penalty on himself, he would have been allowed to join fellow major champions Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen to begin the second round.

Instead Kaymer and British Open champion Oosthuizen went out as a twosome, to the consternation of possibly the biggest gallery of the second day. “Where’s Padraig?” asked one Irish visitor as the group moved from third green to fourth tee.

Harrington, who showed encouraging signs of recapturing the form that made him one of the world’s best players, was distraught at losing the chance to build on his encouraging first day.

“What’s good about it?” was his response to a polite “Good morning” from one of his media inquisitors as he sat beside Andy McFee, the chief referee for the tournament, to explain the incident.

Harrington added: “It could have been worse. I could have been five shots ahead going into the final round.

“I don’t want to go down the road of calling for the referee every time something unusual happens. We want to get on with the game. All I needed to do was put my marker back on the ground, pick up the ball and put it down again. That would have sorted things out.”

McFee said he was informed about the incident just before the close of play on Thursday evening following an e-mail to the Tour’s website. “I had a look at the video and realised we had an issue,” he said.

“It was a minute movement but it was a movement so he should have included a two-stroke penalty on his scorecard.”

Graeme McDowell was unhappy at hearing of the ruling, which came after his own narrow escape from punishment for touching the ball as he addressed his approach to the 18th hole on Thursday.

“It’s horrible,” said McDowell. “At some point common sense has got to take over. Why not just impose the two-shot penalty?”

Harrington decided to stay at the tournament to participate in a clinic this morning. He will be joined by former New Zealand cricket captain Chris Cairns and former rugby stars Gavin Hastings and Jonathan Davies.

Harrington said:“I am looking forward to [the clinic]. I might even make the first lesson all about marking and replacing your ball.”

wjohnson@thenational.ae