Thursday, January 27, 2011

Disqualifications lead to discussions on rules

The disqualification of Padraig Harrington in last week's Abu Dhabi Championship prompted golf's two governing bodies — the USGA and the R&A — to discuss and re-examine certain rules. High-definition TVs are part of the deliberations.

Harrington was DQ'd the following day for signing an incorrect scorecard after the first round. The Irishman had failed to replace his ball after it had moved a fraction of an inch — as shown on super slow-mo HD-TVs around the world — when he picked up his marker.

Changing the rule so that a player won't be DQ'd for signing an incorrect scorecard will be discussed, but it's not that simple, according to the USGAs senior director of rules and competitions Mike Davis.

"It's very complicated to change a rule because it could have such a domino effect," said Davis, although he acknowledged the problem. "The USGA and R&A are bothered that Padraig did everything within the rules, but HD-TV showed a different set of facts.

"Here you have a high-definition television showing a new set of facts that the player, his caddie or the rules official could not have seen. The golf world needs to understand we don't have our heads in the sand. But this doesn't mean rules are going to change."

Earlier this year, Camilo Villegas was DQ'd for signing an incorrect scorecard after his first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after he was assessed a two-stroke penalty for illegally swatting away grass near the ball while it was still in motion. Unaware of the penalty, Villegas learned about his infraction — and DQ — 18 hours after the fact.

Both violations occurred when TV viewers contacted the PGA Tour and European Tour about the infractions.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, speaking at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which begins Thursday, said he has talked with officials at the USGA and R&A.

"We ought to have an intelligent, thorough discussion of what we have today and what options might be available to us," Finchem said. "Somebody told me the other day they watched a replay of the Harrington incident, and in analog television you absolutely couldn't see the ball move. It takes takes HD television to tell you that. Now, if you can't see the ball move in that kind of setting, are you really going to let that go to disqualification? I mean, there needs to be some common sense here."

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