World golf authority to rethink rule book after incidents

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World golf authority to rethink rule book after incidents

LONDON - The R&A is taking a fresh look at its golfing rulebook after recent high-profile incidents involving Padraig Harrington, Camilo Villegas and Ian Poulter, a leading official said on Monday.

The R&A is the main worldwide golf authority, except for the U.S.

Harrington was disqualified from last week’s Abu Dhabi Championship when he signed for an incorrect score after a television viewer noticed the triple major winner from Ireland had accidentally moved his ball on the green.

Colombian Villegas was also disqualified from this month’s Tournament of Champions in Hawaii for a rules violation spotted by a television viewer, while Poulter, from the U.K., was penalized one shot after his marker touched his ball at the Dubai World Championship in November.

“We need to assess whether at times these penalties are still appropriate,” the R&A’s rules of golf director Grant Moir told Reuters in an interview on Monday. “We have been discussing this aspect of the rules and obviously our focus is fairly sharply on it at the moment in the light of these incidents.”

A new edition of the R&A rulebook is brought in every four years and the next one is set to be published in January 2012. But Moir said rule alterations could be made in special circumstances.

“It isn’t always necessary for a change in policy that the rulebook itself has to be changed,” he explained. “There is a decisions book which provides an interpretation of the rules and that is also a means of altering policy.

“It’s impossible for me to say at this stage whether there will be a change to the rules or an interpretation of the rules but there is obviously the means to do that.”

Scorecard sacrosanct

Moir said one possible way forward is to offer a compromise to the existing regulations whereby a retrospective penalty could be given to a player after he had signed his card, without him being disqualified from a tournament.

“There are a number of alternatives in terms of looking at these aspects of the rules,” he said. “Whether we look at applying a penalty and then an additional penalty for the card not being correct - this is all forming part of the discussions we have been having.

“These were very different situations because the penalty has escalated because of the scorecard error. The principle is the scorecard is sacrosanct, the scores have to be right,” added Moir.

Harrington’s disqualification came just days after he agreed to work as a golfing ambassador for the R&A and the irony was not lost on Moir.

“It certainly hasn’t been lost on us that in the first event where he was playing as a Working for Golf Ambassador, regardless of when that happens, we feel sympathy for the player,” said Moir.

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