McDowell is victim of "freak" rules penalty
VIRGINIA WATER, England |
VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell was the victim of a "freak" ruling that led to a triple-bogey eight at the 18th hole in the PGA Championship first round at Wentworth on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Northern Irishman, who made the winning point for Europe at the 2010 Ryder Cup, received a two-shot penalty after his ball moved while he was walking towards it.
"I hit a bad tee shot into the trees and the ball was actually hovering around in some branches," McDowell told reporters after signing for a two-over-par 74 at the European Tour's flagship event.
"I've gone ahead and chipped it out and made a six but TV footage showed the ball rotated a couple of dimples. Because I didn't attempt to replace it, even though I was unsure it had moved, I was supposed to - and that's a one-shot penalty.
"The ball then moved so you have to replace it or attempt to replace it and I didn't do that - so it becomes a two-shot penalty. It's just one of those crazy scenarios unfortunately."
McDowell said he had no problem with the regulations but acknowledged the whole episode was tough to accept.
"The rules are there for everyone's protection (but) I'm disappointed," added the 2010 U.S. Open winner. "How are you supposed to attempt to place the ball when you're not sure it's moved in the first place?
"It's just a harsh one. (Referee) John Paramor said the second you have any doubt you need to call an official in because they can try to guide you through it," McDowell added.
"It's my fault. I should have probably called a referee in. I know what to do in the future, let's put it that way.
"The Rules of Golf are very precise and very in-depth and it's impossible to know every idiosyncrasy."
There have been several incidents in recent years of players being handed retrospective penalties after TV viewers have reported incidents to officials.
McDowell said it was almost a case of paralysis by analysis for the golfers.
"You probably call a referee once every couple of rounds these days because we are all so damned scared," he explained.
"There are cameras everywhere and there are so many fiddly little rules.
"Every now and again a guy gets killed by a couple of dimples moving but the ball has moved and that's tough cookies."
Former world number one Ernie Els, one of the early leaders on four-under-par 68, sympathised with McDowell's plight.
"I always ask an official because these rules are so finicky and confusing," said the 42-year-old South African.
Els suffered a similar fate to McDowell at last week's Byron Nelson Championship.
"I had one in Texas last week," he said. "I hit it in a hazard at the 14th hole and found out I'd played the wrong ball.
"I'm thinking, 'You can't play a wrong ball in a hazard' but a referee tells me, 'No, that rule changed two years ago. You actually have to identify your ball in a hazard.
"How do you do that at times?," Els added. "If you're, say, plugged in a hazard, maybe it could have mud on it, you play the ball.
"I've been a professional since 1989 and I should know the rules better than any of these youngsters and I still ask for a ruling over the simplest of things."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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