Sunday, 19 February 2012

Peter Whiteford's Disqualification

Photo: Press Trust of India

Scot Peter Whiteford, who has yet to win on the tour circuit, was disqualified from the final round of the Avantha Masters in New Delhi over a ball-moving incident on the 18th hole of his third round, when he was lying just one stroke off the lead. He had just double-bogeyed the 17th hole and was about to play his third stroke to the par-5 18th when he thought that his ball may have moved. Although he asked his caddie, fellow competitor and at least one other outside agent standing close by, none of whom saw his ball move, he unwisely went ahead and played the ball as it lay. I was not watching the TV coverage of this incident and no video has appeared on the web yet, but he had obviously addressed his ball when it moved, which meant that he incurred a penalty of one stroke under Rule 18-2b. (Edit Feb 20th 2012: There is now a YouTube clip of the incident here.In my opinion, it is clear from his body language that he thought that his ball had moved.) Here is an official statement from The European Tour’s Chief Referee, John Paramor, regarding the disqualification;
“On the 18th fairway during the third round while playing his approach shot, Peter Whiteford felt that his ball may have moved and for confirmation asked his caddy, a fellow competitor and a TV cameraman, who said they didn’t think it had, and so he continued on to finish the hole and sign his scorecard for 72.

Overnight several viewers contacted the European Tour website saying that Peter Whiteford’s ball had in fact moved on the 18th hole. This was reviewed by the Rules Committee who were able to determine that the ball had in fact moved. Peter Whiteford should have incurred a penalty of one stroke and replaced the ball. As he did not do so, he was disqualified for signing for a score lower than taken for failing to include the penalty he had incurred.

The Rules Committee considered the decision 33-7/4.5 which allows a committee in certain circumstances to modify the disqualification penalty and apply the appropriate penalty stroke(s) if the player could not have reasonably known he had incurred a penalty. If Peter Whiteford had contacted a member of the Rules Team before signing his scorecard, the footage would have been reviewed at the time and he would have averted the disqualification penalty.”
So, what should Peter Whiteford have done in this situation where he was not sure if the ball had moved, or not? As he was playing in a tour event he could have summoned a walking Rules Official to make a decision, having reviewed the evidence. Most of us do not have that luxury in our weekly competitions, but whenever there is a doubt as to procedure the Rules provide a solution whereby we may play a second ball, under Rule3-3, and report the facts of the matter to the Committee immediately after the round. See my blog on ‘When May You Play a Second Ball’.

As soon as Whiteford’s ball moved after he had addressed it he incurred a penalty of one stroke. However, when he failed to replace it where it was before it moved and then played it, the penalty increased to two strokes, under Rule 20-7, for playing his ball from the wrong place. He could still have avoided the ultimate penalty of disqualification if he had gone to an official and told them about his concern as to whether his ball had moved or not before handing in his score card. Because he did not do so, the card that he returned had a score lower than that taken, due to the two strokes penalty not having been recorded, and the Rules Committee had no option but to disqualify him.

Naturally, there have been many comments decrying those that phoned-in to report the breach, but once again I have to make the point that most Pro golfers would rather incur the penalty (even disqualification) than go through the rest of their career with an accusation that they only won (or had done well) in a competition because they avoided a penalty for a known breach of the Rules. In my opinion, European Ryder Cup professional, Oliver Wilson, did not do his reputation much good with this tweet on his Twitter account;

“One reason it takes so long to play is because you have to call ref to cover your back at the slightest things. Better rules would help”
He then made it worse with this one;
“agree we should know rules,but I was crap at school which is why I play sport, I don't trust myself under pressure to get them all right.”
So, hire a caddie who does!

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2012 and may not be copied without permission.

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