McDowell with victory in his sights but referees in his peripherals

Bernie McGuire
Graeme McDowell / Image from Getty Images

Graeme McDowell / Image from Getty Images

The dust is far from settling on the controversy involving Graeme McDowell being slapped with a ‘yellow’ card slow-play warning on day two of this week’s Saudi International.

McDowell was pulled-up during Friday’s round by fellow Northern Irishman, Andrew Snoddy who acts as a Tour referee who timed the former US Open winner to have taken 84 seconds, 34 more seconds that he was allowed at the time, in playing his second shot at the 13th hole of his round.

As reported on Friday, McDowell was bitterly disappointed when no leniency was shown by both Snoddy and Chief Referee, Mark Litton.

And McDowell again found himself spending more time talking about Friday’s incident than his moving one shot clear of the Saudi field as the very media-obliging star seeks to win on the European Tour for the first time since 2014 when he won back-to-back French Open crowns.

McDowell was firstly asked if he’d spoken with SKY’s Tim Barter who conducted the on-course interview but is being harshly singled-out for not checking if McDowell’s group of Phil Mickelson and Rafa Cabrera Bello were ‘on the clock’ at the time of the interview.

“I’ve spoken with Tim and I said to him that there’s zero hard feelings from my point of view, it was not Tim’s fault in any way, shape or form. Tim’s out there trying to do his job, he has no idea, he’s not in communication with the referee, he doesn’t know what’s happening,” said McDowell.

“And in hindsight, no, we shouldn’t have done the interview, but you know, we’re having a good time and we’re trying to entertain people and I quite enjoy talking to Tim because it mean something good’s happening and we did it and subsequently I paid the price for not getting back into the office, really.

“So I’ve told Tim — he said he was going to stay away from me today for obvious reasons — but I told him that I would love to talk to him tomorrow because that would mean things are going in the right direction, so happy to talk to Tim tomorrow, if we’re in position.”

The ‘yellow card’ slow play warning means that if McDowell was to incur a slow-play warning on Sunday, then he would be docked a one-stroke penalty.

But then McDowell was asked if he felt he’s had to alter his game given the events of Friday.

“You know, I felt self conscious a little bit the first five, six holes today just simply because I felt like there was a referee hiding around every tree just keeping an eye on me, trying to prove that I am really slow,” he said.

“So there was a little self consciousness in the beginning but I shook it off and there was enough wind and enough toughness out there today to keep you interested and keep your mind off silly things like how fast you’re hitting shots.

“The good thing was I was playing with Paratore and that was a big bonus today. Victor’s a fast player as well. So there’s always that fear of the last group, the last group can easily detach themselves sometimes, although I don’t think it’s going to be a problem tomorrow with the crowds or anything like that, so, listen, I’m pretty comfortable what I’m doing out there routine-wise, if the inevitable — that’s the wrong word — if we were to go on the clock somehow tomorrow I would be okay, I would be happy enough that I can do my job within the allotted time.”

This journalist then asked that given the process of players being interviewed on-course is helping to promote the bigger picture of the European Tour, should Snoddy and Litton combined not have shown a little more leniency.

“Yeah, I felt like he (Snoddy) should have had a little bit of leniency. It was the fourth shot he (Snoddy) had seen me hit and I had hit, I think it was 25 seconds, 27 seconds and 37 seconds,” said McDowell.

“So I was always of the opinion that you got one, you got one yellow before you got the red. There was no yellow yesterday [Friday]. And there was no leniency, there was no quarter given whatsoever for a situation that was not out of my control but it was very different – but they’re trying to do their job, they’re trying to make an example of — not trying to make an example of me necessarily but they’re trying to clamp down on the fact that there’s a new set of policies and they’re there to make this game faster.

“You could sit there and argue that, well what’s five minutes going to do in anyone’s world? It’s a slow game, there’s too many commercials on TV, it’s a hard game to watch as it is, we know that, but it’s still a great product and we’re trying to make the product better. But the guys are trying to do their job, it’s one of those things, I’ll take it, move on.”

The Tour mid-Saturday issued an ‘Information Notice’ pertaining the incident that stated:

Graeme McDowell was given a bad time on the sixth hole of his second round after taking 84 seconds to play his second shot. As the first player in his group to play, Graeme was entitled to 50 seconds because his group was out of position.

Graeme conducted an in-round interview after his tee shot but this was completed when he was approximately 150 yards from his ball. The referee took the in-round interview into account and permitted additional time when deciding when to start his stopwatch once Graeme had reached his ball for his second shot and obtained his yardage. From the point the stopwatch was started, Graeme took 84 seconds to play his shot, which is 34 seconds more than his time allowance of 50 seconds.

In-round interviews are an important and popular part of the European Tour’s global broadcast and to ensure their continued success, players have been advised they will not be requested to participate in one if their group is out of position (on the clock).

The best manner now for McDowell to shake off this most unnecessary controversy is go out and capture what would be a well-deserved 11th Tour title and a 16th win worldwide.

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