Hats off to the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club for going ahead and making a decision on what many felt led to be an unwarranted disqualification.
In a meeting at the Masters, the two rules makers came up with a new interpretation that will allow tournament committees to waive a DQ if it was precipitated by high tech video evidence after a scorecard had been turned in. The player will instead just have the prescribed penalty added to his score.
The DQ that brought this matter into the spotlight occurred in the Abu Dhubi Championship when a video replay showed that Padraig Harrington’s ball inadvertently moved a fraction of an inch. He was disqualified because the evidence came after he had already signed his scorecard.
The new interpretation, however, will not make a difference for a player who violated a rule as Camilo Villegas did when he removed a divot from the path of a moving ball at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Ignorance of the rules is no excuse and DQ will result if it comes to light after the scorecard is signed.
There are some players and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem who feel that such violations reported by television viewers as the one involving Villegas should be disregarded.
Alan Holmes, new chairman of the R & A’s Rules of Golf Committee, confirmed the rules makers will continue to address the issue of the submission of evidence. “There is a legitimate question whether someone watching a television in Timbuktu should have essentially the same (rules) authority as a referee,” he told reporters.
While the USGA and R&A do strive to make sure the rules are written in a concise and fair manner, it’s difficult for many golfers to comprehend all of the situations which might arise on such large playing fields when it takes more than 500 pages to cover all the decisions.