Pieters escapes penalty after bizarre French Open rules incident

Fatiha Betscher
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Pieters escapes penalty after bizarre French Open rules incident

Even Padraig Harrington got involved a bizarre rules incident involving Belgium’s Thomas Pieters during the second round of the Cazoo French Open on the outskirts of Versailles.

Pieters knows he should have been given a one-stroke penalty but was eventually cleared after being formally advised he had been given a wrong rules decision while over a 35-foot birdie putt at the third hole on the host Le National course.

A coughing spectator clearly disrupted Pieters in attempting to hit his putt, but not giving him enough time to back-off his putt before hitting his ball forward some four feet.

After concurring with playing partners Ewen Ferguson and Victor Perez, Pieters sought an official ruling and with the French-born referee causing a social media storm in ruling the World No. 33 not to have played a stroke.

Pieters was allowed to replace his ball to the original spot and putted out for a par on route to a score of 70 and end the second round at five-under.After concurring with playing partners Ewen Ferguson and Victor Perez, Pieters sought an official ruling and with the French-born referee causing a social media storm in ruling the World No. 33 not to have played a stroke.

Irish Golfer Magazine was on the spot to speak to the French referee who said: “The rule I applied in this situation with Thomas Pieters was the rule referring to the definition of a stroke which implies a player should have the intention to hit the ball to a stroke.

“If it’s not a stroke then it’s deemed a practice swing and Thomas accidentally moved his ball but then it was not a stroke.

“He said to me after the incident what had taken place and I believed what the player said.”

Waiting for Pieters when he ended his round was DP World Tour Chief Referee Mark Litton and with Pieters advised he’d been given a wrong ruling and, as such, there would be no penalty.

Thomas said: “A kid coughed on my backswing just as I was doing the forward motion, and I tried to stop but hit my ball.

“I was given a ruling but it turned out to be the wrong ruling. It was an error from the first referee but then I didn’t know. Then after my round I was advised it was a wrong ruling but there would be no penalty to me as it was the wrong ruling.

“Thinking about it now, I guess I got away with it but then I had sought an official ruling and while I now know I was firstly told wrongly

Harrington got onto his Twitter account saying: “Two rules in play here. 1. Definition of a stroke is the ‘forward’ movement of the club with the ‘intention’ of ‘fairly’ hitting the ball. 2. One the green the ball must be played from the spot it has been marked unless a stroke has occurred.

Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnson said via his Twitter account: “The putter was behind the ball, that normally deems intent to play the shot. However, that is all irrelevant after listening to him (Pieters), that it was not an intentional shot. Strange.”

Dane Rasmus Hogjaard will take a massive six-shot lead into the third round, adding a 65 to his opening round share of the course record 62 and moving to 15-under.

Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell added a 71 to his opening 69 to remain at one under while Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney made the cut right on the level par mark with scores of 70 and 72.

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