Harrington & Nicklaus back move banning armchair referees

Bernie McGuire
Bernie McGuire

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Padraig Harrington has backed New Year changes to the Rules of Golf to eradicate ‘lounge chair’ dismissals.

The triple Major winner knows first-hand what it’s like to be thrown out of an event having been disqualified from the 2011 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after being judged to have illegally moved his ball on day one of the UAE event.

A TV viewer, having access to ‘slow-mo’ footage, emailed the European Tour to say Harrington had moved his ball, albeit slightly, in taking his coin away after replacing his ball.


Since the ball was not replaced, and with Harrington totally unaware he had knocked his ball, he incurred a two-stroke penalty but as the penalty was not included on his scorecard, Chief Referee Andy McFee had no option the next day but to disqualify him.

Golf’s ruling bodies later introduced ‘Harrington’s Rule’ to protect players from ‘slow-mo’ rulings but now both the R & A and USGA have abolished the practice of people phoning-in or emailing alleged breaches of the rules.

And while Harrington is one of many to have suffered at the hands of TV rulings, he is delighted with the decision.

“I am in full agreement with the changes they have announced and it is a step in the right direction,” he said. “I was not unhappy with what happened in Abu Dhabi and I also think the change will help speed-up play as players are currently afraid to take rulings into their own hands and will call instead for a referee.”

So, I can see this new ruling placing more of any rulings in their own hands and not needing to call for a referee that only leads to a slowing-up play.”

“There also would seem to be a lot less punishment, such as being disqualified, with this new decision to be in place from the New Year.”

Also backing the new decision was Jack Nicklaus.

“Golf is a game of integrity where you abide by the rules, but then I have to say I have never been called for a penalty and had I been on television I may have, but not knowing I had broken a rule,” he said.

“The game is played in a manner that when you ask your playing partner what you made on that hole and he or she says ‘4’ then you write down ‘4’ and you don’t question what they say.

“So, to have people back home watching golf on televison and questioning what happens out here is really crazy.”

“They may be right, and they have been shown to be right, but I just don’t think it makes any difference to the game and all it does is sort of … ‘Oh, look at that guy.  He cheated’ .. but then I didn’t know he cheated.”

“So I would not pay attention to armchair critics one way or another so I see it a good decision.”

Harrington and Nicklaus were speaking ahead of Saturday’s start to the two-day Father-and-Son Challenge on the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes course in Orlando.

Harrington is teaming with his 14-year old son, Paddy and Nicklaus with his grandson, Gary Nicklaus Jnr.

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