SAN DIEGO – PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is asking the USGA to review the Rules of Golf after two prominent players were disqualified for rules violations that were reported after they signed their scorecards.
Television viewers called in violations by Camilo Villegas in Hawaii and Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi. They were assessed two-shot penalties, but because officials were notified after the round, the players were disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
“I just think that there’s a lot of discomfort with this whole situation and questions raised,” Finchem said Tuesday.
He said he is to meet with the USGA executive committee next week at its annual meeting, and he has spoken with the European Tour, which he said has joined him in questioning the rule.
Finchem made it clear he is not asking that the penalty related to signing an incorrect card be changed.
He said he wants a “full and thorough review” of the rule, so golf officials can ask if there is a better way to penalize players. One suggestion is to assess the two-stroke penalty even after the card has been signed, provided the player was not aware he had broken a rule.
Regardless of the outcome, tours have a right to set their own rules for a tournament. Finchem, however, has not been in favor of the PGA Tour getting into the business of making rules. He prefers the USGA to handle that.
“I don’t want to assume what our position would be on any piece of it,” he said. “All I’m saying at this point is we ought to have an intelligent, thorough discussion of what we have today and what options might be available to us.”
One suggestion is to simply add the penalty to a player’s score when a violation is discovered and let him keep playing. That could lead to other problems, however. If a two-shot penalty on Friday is not discovered until Saturday, it’s possible the adjusted score could affect which players make the cut.
Villegas reached over to tap down a divot as his ball was rolling back down a slope to that very spot. A TV viewer tried to reach tournament officials, but his e-mail didn’t make its way to Kapalua until after Villegas had signed for a 72.
Harrington opened with a 65 at the Abu Dhabi Championship, one shot out of the lead. A TV viewer noticed that when replacing his ball on the green, the ball moved forward ever so slightly. Harrington later said he knew the ball nudged forward, but he felt it had rolled back to its original spot. He was disqualified the next day.
Finchem said he had been told that without HDTV, it could not be determined that Harrington’s ball had moved.
“Now if you can’t see the ball move in that kind of setting, are you really going to let that go to disqualification? I mean, there needs to be some common sense here maybe in terms of the way these things are,” Finchem said. “So I don’t know whether the rule will be changed. I don’t know what timeframe the final decision will be made by the USGA.
“I feel comfortable given the quality of the people at the USGA today that if we can just get into a room and talk seriously about the options, we ought to be able to give this a very careful review.”