Padraig Harrington narrowly escaped disqualification for the second time this season after another whistle-blower rules incident.
After signing for a fine 68 to clinch an eventual share of ninth in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow (five shots outside a play-off), a marshall or spectator reported that Harrington had teed off in front of the tee markers at the par-three 13th.
The Dubliner had to accompany a PGA Tour rules official and playing partner Phil Mickelson back to the tee to see if had teed off in front of the tee markers.
“Evidence was inconclusive at the site as they searched in vain to pinpoint a divot. After further review of television footage, it was decided tht Harrington would receive no penalty due to lack of conclusive evidence.
“It looks close on TV, there’s no doubt about it,” Harrington said in an interview with CBS television after the round and subsequent review. ”For once, I’m not going to be a martyr and take [the penalty].”
The Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard added:
After a lengthy discussion with PGA Tour rules officials Harrington, along with his playing partner Phil Mickelson, went back to the clubhouse to review the tape of the incident.
“No way I teed it up there,” Harrington told the rules official. “I’d have to be a blind person to do that.”
Members of the gallery reported the incident and officials were eyeing a divot that had been made in front of the marker, but both Mickelson and Harrington didn’t think it was.
More details were reported by Golfweek’s Alex Miceli:
Harrington, who was facing disqualification under Rule 11-4, was notified of the issue when he entered the scoring area and Slugger White, the Vice President for Rules and Competition for the PGA Tour was waiting for him.
White notified Harrington that a marshal on the 13th tee had contacted Jon Brendel, another rules official, and told him that he believed that Harrington was ahead of the markers.
When Harrington was on the 16th green, both Brendel and White went to look at the 13th tee and had a difficult time determining which divot was Harrington’s and then went to the TV monitors to determine if anything on the tape could provide any guidance and could not tell either way if Harrington had violated the rule.
So after signing his card, Harrington, White, Brendel and playing competitor Phil Mickelson - who Harrington asked to come along - went directly to the 13th tee.
The first issue was trying to identify which divot was Harrington’s.
“We weren’t 100% sure that was the exact divot,” White said when they looked around the tee. “We looked around and looked around. There’s all kind of divots up there,”
Harrington also explained to White that he was stepping in a divot when he was teeing off and nothing was identifiable showing two divots.
After about 10 minutes on the 13th tee, the group went to the TV monitors to determine if they could see something that would be conclusive, they didn’t.
“It’s your call because we weren’t here,” White said to Harrington. “And he was perfectly fine with that, as was I and as was Phil .”
Harrington and Mickelson never felt that Harrington had violated the rule.
“It wasn’t conclusive and there was nothing wrong that you could see,” Mickelson said. “There’s not TV evidence, it just happens.”
Harrington never thought he was in front of the marker, especially when he had already moved the ball back once because he thought it was too close to the line.
“It was fairly tight, but it was inconclusive,” Harrington said. “Maybe I got lost in the moment, but the caddies and Phil are not going to get lost in the moment.”
Harrington never thought he was in a situation where his integrity was in question or that there was any question in his mind that he violated the rule.
“There’s no doubt it is inconclusive,” Harrington said. “I’m one to tee way back, but I was pushing it up there, was trying to get my 6‑iron up there. Next time I’ll make sure I give it a good yard instead of trying to - such is life, as I said. It is inconclusive, and there’s not much we can do about it. There’s no penalty.”
The PGA Tour reported:
A spectator originally raised the issue. But after he finished his round, Harrington, his playing partner Phil Mickelson and two PGA TOUR rules officials, Jon Brendle and Slugger White, went back to the tee and looked at the divots. In addition, they viewed at the CBS video of the shot.
In each case, it was inconclusive and there was no penalty. The penalty would have been disqualification. Harrington finished with a 68 and was tied for ninth at 10 under.
“For once I am not going to be a martyr and take it,” Harrington told CBS announcer Peter Kostis. “It’s not conclusive so there’s no penalty.”
Mickelson agreed. He said on the par 3s Harrington puts a tee down and checks his position. On that hole, Mickelson remembers the Irishman moving the tee back afterwards.
“It’s not an issue,” Mickelson said. “Padraig is one of the most honorable guys we have on TOUR.”
Harrington acknowledged that he was closer than he normally would have been to the front of the tees at that particular par 3 because he needed to get his 6-iron to the green. But no one in the group felt that he was ahead of the tees, and the review didn’t show that either.
“This one is particularly inconclusive,’ Harrington said. “There’s just no reason to say yes, even though it’s certainly close when look at it on TV. The left marker is good; the right marker looks a bit iffy. At the end of the day it’s inconclusive and that’s where it stays.”
Under Rule 11-4B, a player who plays outside of the teeing ground at the start of a hole is assessed a 2-stroke penalty and then must replay the hole by starting inside the teeing ground.
But while Harrington had already completed his round, signing for a 4-under round of 68 at Quail Hollow, he would not have been disqualified for an incorrect score.
Harrington was disqualified in Abu Dhabi in January when he TV viewer called in to report had nudged his golf ball when replacing it on the green. It finished “one and half” dimples ahead of its original position and he had failed to replace it before putting out.
Having failed to add a two shot penalty to his score of 65, Harrington was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score. And his case caused such a furore that the governing bodies announced a change to the rule on the eve of the Masters.
Players can no longer be disqualified for an unreported rules violation that could not have been observed by the player without video evidence.
Former US Open champion Lucas Glover claimed the Wells Fargo title with a par at the first extra hole of a play-off with former college team mate Jonathan Byrd after they had finished a shot clear of Rory Sabbatini on 15 under par.