Tait: Whiteford's Avantha Masters disqualification unfair?

Peter Whiteford

Peter Whiteford

You’ve got to admire the way Scotland’s Peter Whiteford handled his disqualification from the Avantha Masters, but his punishment is yet another case of golf’s too stringent penalties.

Whiteford was in contention for his first European Tour victory when he was disqualified after three holes of the final round for signing for a wrong score in round three. Television viewers spotted Whiteford’s ball moving a fraction of an inch while playing the 18th hole in the third round and called the European Tour.

After reviewing the TV evidence, European Tour chief referee John Paramor confirmed the worst and Whiteford was out of the tournament.

The irony is that the Scot asked his caddie, a fellow competitor and a cameraman if his ball had moved and all three said it hadn’t. In hindsight, he should have asked for a ruling.

You have to feel for the Scotsman. The penalty is far too harsh. Getting booted out of a tournament when a ball moves a fraction of an inch is just wrong.

Officialdom needs to look at this. They need to look at punishments that do not fit alleged crimes. They also have to look at the unfairness of TV rulings that only apply to a fraction of the field.

Whiteford’s infraction only came to light because, as tournament leader, he was the subject of intense TV scrutiny. Had he been at the back of the field he could have committed the same “crime,” – unwittingly, of course – and it would never have come to light.

The problem with the rules is that they are often too rigid. There needs to be more room for officials to have flexibility in such situations. You don’t need to be a Ph.D. student to realize Whiteford was not trying to gain any advantage.

Besides, we want players to speed up; no wonder rounds take so long when players have to call for a rules official every time they think they “might” have infringed a rule.

The USGA and R&A revised Decision 33-7/4.5: “Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified” in light of Padraig Harrington’s disqualification from last year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after he was unaware his ball had moved on the seventh green in the first round.

The European Tour looked at using this decision in Whiteford’s case but decided it did not come in to play. Maybe it should have. Maybe it should be altered further to cover Whiteford’s situation.

Or maybe Tour officials should be given a little more flexibility so that players aren’t overly punished for minor crimes. That’s certainly what happened in Whiteford’s case.

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