Video review under review

Rulesmakers take a look at DQs for marginal cases

February 03, 2011|By Jeff Shain

One might be tempted to give the clip some sort of catchy "Zapruder" label, except there's nothing grainy about Padraig Harrington's position on the Abu Dhabi green — which is precisely why it could be the catalyst for change.

Harrington nudges his ball while picking up the coin used to mark it. The ball rocks ever-so-slightly away from the contact point, then back again ever so slightly — just a touch less slightly as the first wobble. Harrington's ball clearly didn't return to its original spot.

Clear, that is, in super-slow-mo HD. Less so to the naked eye. Harrington was aware his ball had shifted but didn't discern the quarter-inch difference until he was dragged into the TV truck the next day.

"Maybe a dimple and a half," he said in discussing his DQ by super-slow-mo HD.

And that might be where golf's rulesmakers finally say enough. Not only have the PGA and European Tours called for a review of video review, one governing body apparently has a proposal in the works.

"Some of our best brains already have been at work on the wording of any new ruling," Peter Dawson, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club's chief executive, told a Scottish newspaper.

"There is no doubt we need to cover marginal cases like Padraig's. Plus, the whole issue of so-called 'armchair evidence' needs more thought too."

U.S. Golf Association rules chief Mike Davis, meanwhile, told Golf Channel he's "absolutely" open to discussions.

The Harrington affair was at least the fifth instance in the last nine months in which video review has assessed penalty strokes — some leading to an after-the-fact DQ.

Camilo Villegas was sent packing in Hawaii when he nonchalantly swiped away divot turf while a poorly hit ball rolled back to his feet. Juli Inkster lost a shot at becoming the LPGA's oldest tournament winner when a camera caught her swinging a club with a weighted donut to stay loose during a long backup.

There was Dustin Johnson's PGA Championship penalty for grounding his club in one of Whistling Straits' million bunkers. And Brian Davis handed a Hilton Head playoff to Jim Furyk when video confirmed his hunch that he had brushed a reed on the backswing of a shot from swampy hazard.

"It obviously troubles a lot of people in terms of how it shakes out from time to time," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said.

Removing the "incorrect scorecard" clause for an unwitting error would go a long way. Though pros are conditioned to accept penalty strokes, the loss of a potential payday is what chafes at their core.

Said Dawson: "If you couldn't have known you had incurred a penalty, disqualification does seem inequitable."

jshain@tribune.com

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