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Harrington disqualified in Abu Dhabi

Padraig Harrington of Ireland arrives with European Tour senior referee Andy McFee for a press conference after being disqualified before his second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 21, 2011 in Abu Dhabi. (GETTY IMAGES)


Padraig Harrington was on Friday disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship for signing a wrong card in his seven under par first round of 65.

Harrington's tournament came to a premature end after a television viewer alerted  European Tour officials to a possible rules infringement by the Irishman on the seventh green.

While marking his ball on the green during Thursday's opening round Harrington's fingers inadvertently brushed the ball, which moved by an almost indiscernible distance, but enough to show up on the high-definition telecast.

After reviewing the tapes along with Harrington, the world No 26 accepted the punishment.

Harrington, who took the bitter pill with remarkable calmness, said: "I clearly remember on the seventh green yesterday (Thursday) when I was picking the coin up, I touched the ball.

"At that moment I established that the ball hadn't moved.

"I was well aware that I touched it, so I checked that the Titleist logo with which I align my ball was still in the same position pointing toward the target. I was quite comfortable that the ball had not moved.

"This morning I came in and watched it on the TV. I think with an unbiased view of it, I would comfortably say 99 per cent, the ball moved three dimples forward and moved back a dimple, a dimple and a half.

"It looks like it's moved, so I'm happy it has. I think it's fair enough that the penalty is there on the face of it.

The incident was reminiscent of the Colombian Camilo Villegas' disqualification from the season-opening PGA Tour event in Hawaii a fortnight back.

The three-time Major champion was disqualified under Rule 6-6d (signing an incorrect scorecard) following the breach of Rule 20 3a, which states: "If a ball or ball-marker is accidentally moved in the process of placing or replacing the ball, the ball or ball-marker must be replaced.

"There is no penalty, provided the movement of the ball or ball-marker is directly attributable to the specific act of placing or replacing the ball or removing the ball-marker.

"Otherwise, the player incurs a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2a or 20-1."

Andy McFee, European Tour Senior Referee, said: "But the ball must be replaced. Now, in this case, the ball wasn't replaced.
So the penalty for breach of that rule is two stroke, and the problem is that Padraig's card for the 7th shows a three.

"The fact that Padraig was totally unaware that his ball has moved doesn't unfortunately help him, and the disqualification is for signing for the wrong score, lower than actually taken."

Harrington argued that the rules should not change, although, the governing bodies should have a look at the penalty being imposed on players.

"I would argue, though, in general, it does serve the game well that we have the best rules of any sport.
"They are applied across the board all the time. It's the one thing all golfers love about their sport is the fact that we can
stand up and say, we have the best rules, we are the fairest, we call them on ourselves.

"I think in this situation and other situations like that, with the new technology, maybe going forward, that the penalties can be changed. But the actual rulings have to stay where they are."

Harrington's 65 had left him placed second, one shot behind South African leader Charl Schwartzel.