Triumph and tragedy in Abu Dhabi
On a day when Martin Kaymer would surge into the lead, Padraig Harrington, one off the lead overnight, was disqualified.
In a second round when Martin Kaymer would surge into the lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Padraig Harrington, one stroke off the 1st-round lead overnight, would be disqualified before he could even fire a shot.
It was a triumphant Friday for Kaymer who went three shots clear of first-round leader Charl Schwartzel at 12 under par, but a tragic one for Harrington who became the latest victim of trial by television when a viewer reported that he had infringed the rulers of the game on his way to posting his first-round 65.
The viewer spotted, in slow motion, that his ball had moved a fraction of an inch as his finger caught it while picking up his marker on the seventh green.
And because he signed his scorecard unaware of the infringement and without adding a two-stroke penalty for itt, the punishment was disqualification.
The Dubliner said: “I was aware I hit the ball (with the back of a finger) picking up my coin.
“I looked down 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.
“At the end of the day that’s good enough, but I wouldn’t have done anything differently yesterday.
“If I’d called a referee over it would have been pointless because if he’d asked me where my ball was (before he clipped it with his finger) I’d have said it was there (where it was now). As far as I was concerned it didn’t move.”
It is the second time in his career Harrington has been disqualified from a tournament he had a good chance of winning.
In 2000 he was five ahead with a round to go in the Benson and Hedges International at the Belfry, but it was then discovered that he had not signed his first day scorecard.
Tour senior referee Andy McFee, who also disqualified the three-time major winner then, stated: “I got an email from the Tour feedback site just before six o’clock last night.
“I managed to get a look and knew immediately we had an issue. I got all members of the rules committee to look at the tape.
“Because everything was closing down I decided to sleep on it and speak to Padraig first thing this morning.
“It’s a minute movement, but it’s a movement and he never replaced it, so he should have included a two-stroke penalty.
“The fact that he is unaware he moved the ball unfortunately does not help him. Because he signed for a score lower than actually taken the penalty is disqualification.”
Despite wind and rain, Kaymer., the reigning US PGA champion and Race To Dubai winner last year, took over at the top of the leaderboard from Schwartzel by adding a superb 65 to his opening 67 – and in this kind of form, he now looks poised to replace Tiger Woods as world number two.
He needs only a top seven finish to do that
Schwartzel struggled on Friday and could only manage a 1-under 71 and 9-under, while the 70 of Northern Ireland’s US Open champion Graeme McDowell left him in third spot, four shots off the pace.
Rory McIlroy had a 67 for six under and last year’s Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, in a sudden return to form,a 69 for five under.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson (70) is three under at halfway and world number one Lee Westwood, double-bogeying the 17th for a 75 that left him dangerously close to the likely cut.
Ian Poulter and Open champion Louis Oosthuizen were one worse than that and like Harrington, faced a weekend off.
FOOTNOTE: Grant Moir, Rules of Golf director for the R&A, told Press Association Sport: “Obviously in the light of this and what happened to Camilo Villegas (the Colombian was another victim of ‘trial by television’ in Hawaii earlier this month) the significance of the disqualification penalty has been brought sharply back into focus.
“Certainly with the introduction of every-increasing scrutiny and enhanced images there is a fresh impetus to have a look at it and see if the rules are still appropriate.”
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