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January 21, 2011

Padraig Harrington

Andy McFee


SCOTT CROCKETT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us this morning. You all have been aware of the situation that happened with Pádraig yesterday and subsequently his disqualification this morning.
First thing I would like to do is just ask Andy McFee who is our senior referee just to explain the circumstances of how you came to hear about this and how the process elapsed.
ANDY McFEE: Yeah, we got an e-mail sent to The European Tour website last night from somebody who had been watching the coverage, which came into us just before the close of play last night, about ten to 6.00 and managed to get down to the TV compound just as everybody was departing.
But I did get an opportunity to look at Pádraig marking and replacing the ball on the 7th green. And I knew that we had a bit of an issue, and I got all of the members of the Rules Committee to come down and have a look at that last night.
We didn't have an opportunity, everybody was just about to disappear from the Tour Productions caravan and I had no opportunity to get Pádraig down. Plus, I wanted to sleep on this and think on this, give it some thought and see where we could go with it.
So I elected to speak to Pádraig first thing this morning and I wanted him to have an opportunity to see the pictures that the viewer had seen.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Before we hear from Pádraig, just give us the ruling.
ANDY McFEE: Right. The viewer called in to say that as Pádraig replaced his ball on the green, as he took the coin away, his hand moved the ball. That by itself does not incur a penalty.
But the rule is 20-3a: If you move a ball in the process of replacing it, or placing it, if you move the ball or the coin, and that movement is directly attributable to the specific act of replacing the ball, and they define the specific act such as the movement of the hand or the coin causes the ball to move; then there is no penalty.
But the ball must be replaced. Now, in this case, the ball wasn't replaced. So the penalty for breach of that rule is two stroke, and the problem is that Pádraig's card for the 7th shows a three, and the fact that Pádraig was totally unaware that this ball has moved doesn't unfortunately help him, and the disqualification is for signing for the wrong score, lower than actually taken.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Pádraig, perhaps just give us your thoughts on the whole thing.
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Obviously when I talked to Andy this morning, I clearly remember on the 7th green yesterday when I was picking the coin up, I touched the ball. At that moment I established that the ball hadn't moved.
I was well aware of the fact that I touched it, so I checked that the -- I use a Titleist logo to align the ball and I checked that that was still in the same position pointing toward the target and was quite comfortable that the ball had not moved.
I'm well aware of the ruling on that situation, and it's happened many times over the years. And you know, I'm quite comfortable, if you touch a ball and it doesn't move and you feel it hasn't moved, it hasn't moved, and you don't need to -- there is no replacing.
If you called the referee at that moment in time, in all good conscience, I couldn't have put the ball anywhere else but where it was.
This morning I came in and watched it on the TV. I think with an unbiased view of it, I would comfortably say 99 per cent, the ball moved three dimples forward and moved back a dimple, a dimple and a half. Even with a biased view, I couldn't even get to 50/50 on it.
It looks like it's moved so I'm happy it has. I don't think there was any physical way I could tell that it had moved at the time. You know, I was comfortable I had touched the ball, but I just assumed it had rocked in its position. It certainly did rock, but on the video it looks like it's rocked further forwards than backwards.
If I'm going to learn anything from this, it's a horrible thing to learn, but if you think you know the rules, you just keep getting caught out, because obviously the sensible thing -- well, it wouldn't be sensible but it kind of now leads me to think if I want to take a drop away from a sprinkler or water hazard, should I call the referee, even though I know the rule.
I felt I knew the rule at the time. I applied the rule as best I could in the situation but looking at the video today, it's pretty clear that it, you know, it's a hundred per cent looks like the ball has moved forward and not far enough back, and that's the issue at heart.
I do believe that the rule is correct in terms of we have to be very precise about how we mark our golf balls and position the golf ball is in, and I do agree, I do fully agree, even though it's only a dimple and a half, in the end of the day, you know, somebody down the road could use five dimples as being okay and the next guy would use an inch as being okay.
So I think it's fair enough that the penalty is there on the face of it.

Q. This morning, if Pádraig, after he had looked at the video was adamant it had not moved, would you been able to disqualify him?
ANDY McFEE: Yeah, you could. It would have been a harder thing to do, but yes. If you're comfortable that the ball has moved, then the burden of proof switches to the player. And the player has really got to be able to prove that the ball has gone back to exactly the same place.
It would have been a harder thing to do, but yes, you could have.

Q. Good morning --
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: What's good about it? It's raining outside. (Laughter).

Q. You talked us through the tournament of your golfing life yesterday, and then you have this served on you; my word. But anyway. In most cases, we can see how technology serves the interests of the sport and the player. Is this a case where it doesn't, if the player with his naked eye cannot detect any kind of incriminating act? And that's one thing. The second thing, how does this serve the interests of golf?
ANDY McFEE: First question, it is desperately difficult to deal with these circumstances. And it is not always easy for a player to accept decisions like this, which are absolute minutiae make the difference.
Just give me a second to collect the thoughts. The first question again?

Q. The first question, if the player with his naked eye could not detect any kind of fault, how can we then justify penalising him because he could not have made the decision any other way.
ANDY McFEE: Well, yeah, it is difficult, as I say. In this case, it's the level of the first movement. If that is significant enough, then as I say, the burden of proof does switch back to the player.
I don't know what else Pádraig could have done in these circumstances, and technology has not helped the player in this instance. There are some instances where it does. In this instance, it hasn't, because what it's highlighted is its highlighted a movement of the ball. And Pádraig believed that he had put the ball back in exactly the same spot.
But the picture tells a slightly -- the ball had rolled back to the same spot but the picture tells a different story and Pádraig has been gentleman enough to accept that.

Q. If that's the case and the player cannot in all conscience detect a movement in the ball, how does the use of technology in this way serve the interests of the game?
ANDY McFEE: One of the things that's under discussion at the moment with the R&A, if we switch to the Peter Hanson ruling Mallorca last year where clearly Peter had double-hit the ball but had no way of knowing that he double-hit the ball, and it's only through the use of slow-mo technology that that breach of the rules became aware to anybody.
Now one of the things that is being discussed with the R&A right now is how do we deal with that going forward. And we may well get to a position where if the player not didn't know, but couldn't know they breached the rules, then we don't -- we would still apply the relevant penalty, which would reopen the card. And instead of Pádraig being disqualified for signing for a three, when he should have included a five, which he didn't know he had incurred that penalty, we would reopen that card and he would still be playing in the golf tournament with the correct penalty.
We have not got to that point yet, and I can only rule on what's there at the moment.
The other difficulty with this case, with that one, I don't even know if this would have met that test, because once the player has touched the ball himself, and is looking straight down on the ball, it's really difficult to get to that position there. And it is very, very unfortunate. I don't think it does serve the game well, no.
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I would argue, though, in general, it does serve the game well that we have the best rules of any sport. They are applied across the board all the time. It's the one thing all golfers love about their sport is the fact that we can stand up and say, we have the best rules, we are the fairest, we call them on ourselves.
I think in this situation and other situations like that, with the new technology, maybe going forward, that the penalties can be changed. But the actual rulings have to stay where they are. You know, as I said, 1 1/2 dimples becomes, as I said, half an inch becomes an inch; where do you stop?
The rules are good, we abide very well, the players love the fact that we apply them and everybody who plays the game, you know, there's somebody in your golf club that doesn't apply the rules, you know, everybody knows about it, and everybody ostracizes them. We love the standard that we play by. When we have to stick to that, that's the best thing about our game.
So that's a good thing. Obviously the technology does bring it to the nth degree and possibly as Andy says, it does seem like if I was penalised two shots, I'd still have probably just the same chance of winning this tournament going forward.
So, in that sense, maybe the rules could be -- the penalties could be modified, but not the rules.
ANDY McFEE: And we do deal in fact, that's the thing. And technology brings you to the fact that the ball moved, and that's the difficulty that technology gets you into levels of detail that it just wasn't possible to get into before.
And the fact is that that ball moved, and it moved significantly. And it didn't look like it went back to where it was. And that's why the ruling was given.

Q. How disappointing is it to leave in these circumstances after the start that you've made?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: You know what, a lot worse things could happen. You could be five ahead going into the last round -- (laughter). As I reeled off to you yesterday, I have plenty of things to work on the next three days on the range.
Yeah, it's disappointing. And especially you know, you just never ever -- it's an awkward situation. Every time something like this happens, you want to try and gain something from it, learn something from it.
And as I said, I don't want to go down the road of calling a referee over for every simple decision that ever happens on the golf course. We are all keen to get around there as quick as possible; no more so than myself at times. So I don't want to be slowing things down.
You know, I look at this situation, in this particular one, I have it covered already. All I needed to do was put my marker back on the ground and that would have cleared up the whole situation. I didn't need to move the ball anywhere, just put my marker, pick up the ball, put it down again, and that would have sorted it out.
In this particular instance, I guarantee you, I'm going to see it happen again. I've seen it happen before where another player has a different situation where he's actually grounded his club and the ball was moved, and I've dived in there and given him the wrong ruling.
You know, I hate the fact that even though I know the rules, I have to keep going back to the referees, as in maybe that's at times in the future, I'll think twice about thinking I know what I'm doing.
ANDY McFEE: And Pádraig knows that many players over the years have penalised themselves in addressing the ball with this level of movement. The ball has just moved, but unfortunately Pádraig didn't see it, so he wasn't aware of it. If he had been, in this case, he would have just put the ball back and there would have been no penalty at all.
But if that level of movement is not a penalty, then many players and founders have been getting the rules wrong for a long time.

Q. Just to clarify, are you saying it would have been better if you had been assessed a penalty, rather than going ahead -- are you saying that would be the best way to deal with it?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: No, the best thing would be that I moved the ball or marked the ball again yesterday, there would be no penalty.
But as regards, I think I would agree with Andy, that going forward, that in a situation where a player signed his card and something has come forward that the player could not have been aware about; that there might be a new penalty for that instead of a disqualification that in retrospect before the last round starts, there has to be a time limit on this, that instead of being a disqualification, that a penalty is put on the score.
As I was pointing out, if I was 5-under or 7-under, I wouldn't feel any less about going into the last 54 holes. So in that situation, I couldn't have done anything about it, and getting disqualified, it's the rules, and you have to accept that.
But going forward, maybe the possibility is, and I think Andy said they are already discussing the fact of being able to put the penalty on the score after the card is signed, in certain circumstances -- but again, that's very difficult, because as I said, signing the card is attesting that the score is correct; and we need to do that to keep a level playing field so that somebody down the road doesn't use that as an excuse to get out of a penalty.

Q. I wonder if you have any views on golf's growing army of couch-bound vigilantes? Ian Poulter called them snitches the other week following the Villegas ruling. Do you have any feeling?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: No, I certainly wouldn't call them that. I would be more akin to -- I'm comfortable with the whole idea that there's people there watching, and I believe when I'm on the golf course I'm not going to do anything untoward. I'm happy to have -- I hope that this many people watch The European Tour. I hope there's 100 million people watching me play and checking me out. It's good for the game.
We had it in our golf clubs growing up. There was always somebody there who knew the rules and wanting to apply the rules and they were the characters at times. They added to the place. Yeah, it takes a certain individual to act upon it, but we do need those individuals.
ANDY McFEE: And the essence is that television brings the game to a very wide audience, so you have a lot of people watching what's going on.
And going back to Kevin's point with technology, it actually gets the viewer not just ten yards from the ball, but things them with these really tight shots inches from the ball. So you can see things that you can't normally see.
Golf is a self-regulating sport and the players go out there, they don't have a referee sitting on the shoulder. That's not the way the game is played. That's not the way it's meant to be played. They are their own judges and they call things as they see them. But the principal of the game is you are supposed to know the rules. And it is just horrible that in this circumstance, I don't think there's anything else Pádraig could have done. Technology has done it for us.
But the evidence comes in many shapes or forms. It's not just television evidence. It's people who are out watching the game who see something, might not be on television, and spectators come to us and say, is this right. 99 times it is right, but occasionally it's not, and then you have to go to the player and say, did you do this on 10, and then we have an honest and open debate usually. You get to the facts, and this was the point I was making earlier, one way or another, whether it's through visual television evidence or verbal evidence from spectators, but you get to the bones of what's happened and the bottom line is you act on what's happened and you just deal on the facts.

Q. Do either of you have any thoughts on the sense of play here in the sense that we have got one player who has unwittingly moved his ball a dimple and if there's one player here unwittingly done it, chances are 20 others who have unwittingly moved a dimple.
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: But I think it's rare.

Q. Well, you don't know, do you?
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: No, it's rare. This is a rare, rare occasion. In fairness, it there's not 20 people every day going out there -- it is rare. But I know, it's still -- well, it might be one in a thousand times. But one is enough. Go on. I'm sorry for interrupting. (Laughter).

Q. Well, you don't know.
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: That's okay. If you don't know, you're not breaking the rules. You can only go by what you know and that's fine. But the fact is there's a fact there --
ANDY McFEE: That's the fact. Once you know, if there are 20 people out there, if we found out about six of them, then six of them would get the same ruling.

Q. But they are not on television, either.
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Yeah but I want to be on television. I want to have those ten million people watching me because that means I'm doing well. If I'm not on television and nobody is watching, I'm missing the cut.
So in the end of the day, like anything else, there's a little bit of extra responsibility not just with the rules but your etiquette, everything like that. When you get up the ranks and you get on that television, you have responsibilities and you're playing with a bigger audience and there's more distractions and there's more things going on.
And if you want to be the best player in the world, if you want to be one of those players, you have to accept that you have to maybe work under a little bit -- I don't have get to go out first in the morning on fresh greens. So, you know, this is the little bit of extra responsibility as you become a better player, and you'd better embrace it.
The fact that the camera isn't on the guy who is down the field doesn't make any difference. As he becomes a better player, it will be on him. There's no competitive edge, let's say in, that sense. And it's fair enough. That's the responsibility of any player doing what it takes.
ANDY McFEE: And still however many eyes are walking down the crowd watching you --
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: There's playing partners and we pay attention. It's very evident when somebody doesn't do something right, and it's known. And even if it doesn't come fully to the attention or can't be acted upon, the players are very quick to, as I said, they will let it be known, and somebody who doesn't do things right will get a reputation and will have a very lonely life on Tour.

Q. Do you have any sense of unease that you're running the tournament, and yet, somebody rings in from outside, and this might not be exactly what you want, and given that it seems to be happening increasingly now, it does present a slightly odd image. And secondly, I believe in right I'm right in saying that in America, they have someone full-time looking at the television, which must be pretty boring for that person, and do you think there might be a case for saying that, so you can spot these things on television and ring in?
ANDY McFEE: I'll deal with the second one first because the PGA Tour did trial that a number of years ago but decided against it, so they don't do that in America.

Q. Why?
ANDY McFEE: Because they felt that one rules official dedicated to just watching a small number of people on television was not the right way to go, and he would be better served being out on the golf course dealing with whatever queries came their way, whichever way we cut it, where we are working with 18 holes and probably six or seven people covering those 18 holes.
So there isn't a referee everywhere. And of those six or seven, there's always two guys on setup and always somebody timing. So somebody sitting there limited in a zone, but it's very limited what they can do if you take another guy out of that completely. And I believe that was the stance the PGA Tour took, and I believe we see it the same way.
The first question?

Q. Not you personally, but the body that or the people who are in charge of tournaments are actually having their attention drawn increasingly and repeatedly by people who have nothing to do with the tournament.
ANDY McFEE: True. But I can only come back to the facts of each individual case, and we get an awful lot of calls come in.
We had another one come in yesterday about Graeme McDowell on the 18th, and I had to hold Graeme in the recording area until I was given an opportunity to go down to the TV compound and look at what was shown. In this case this was nothing, it was a ball oscillation rather than a ball movement. But because this happened on the 18th, then you've got to act fairly quickly.
Unease is really not the right word. I don't know what word I would use, because one, it means that there are people out there, fans watching the game and interested in it. And if they are bringing things to light which are affecting the competition, in other words, people are getting it wrong, then there is an argument to say that it's right that those things are brought out, whichever way, whether it's by a spectator on the third where there's no television cameras around or by a television picture. The fans have a big part to play in this game.

Q. Getting back to the subject of television, when Deane Beman made that decision a couple of decades ago to review the situation of having somebody watch television, there was no super-low-mo, there were far fewer players on the screen and cameras on the course, and the last two weeks we have had two disqualifications of players, if had the penalty or the offense been spotted, they would not have been disqualified, merely would have incurred a penalty. Surely by monitoring television, you would preclude any need for a change to golf's rules or the interpretation of golf's rules. Is it not something that should be reconsidered?
ANDY McFEE: Oh, I think all things are always reviewed. As you move on, you look at the experience that you've got, and you would act accordingly. So I am certainly not aware that the PGA Tour are currently putting an official in front of a television monitor. We are certainly not doing it at the moment. Whether it's something we do in the future is something I'll discuss with my colleagues.

Q. Would you have been grateful to assess yourself --
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I would not have been happy with it at the time because I would not be thinking of the disqualification. Now that I'm disqualified, I would have taken the penalty.
Obviously hindsight the simple thing would have been, you know, call a referee at the time, not assume I know things, put my coin back down to the ground, any of those things would have meant no penalty.
As regards being watched, in the end of the day, this is a bigger debate. If you're walking do you know main street in your local town and there's a CCTV watching you, some people won't like it and some people would accept it. I would like to have the CCTV there. I'm all for it and same thing when it comes to the golf course. I believe it's going to help my cause so that's why I want it there.
I think it's a good thing that we have it. Yes, we can in the modern era, we can adapt how we apply the situation, but do I not think we should take it away. I think we definitely need to have it there. It's just a question of discussing further as it evolves, because it's got that little bit further down the road and we can see these things, just going that little bit further and establishing parameters for different penalties.
ANDY McFEE: The problem that I see is the innocent penalty escalates very quickly from two strokes into disqualification. I don't like that, I really don't like that.
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: Neither do I. (Laughter).

Q. Just one thing, is a referee's ruling on the course absolutely final? If Pádraig had called you yesterday and said, this happened, and I don't know whether it moved forward or came back and you decided --
P√ɬĀDRAIG HARRINGTON: I was positive it was in the same place, so it wasn't a question of not knowing. I actually checked my markings and said --

Q. But the point I'm trying to make, though, if you had called in and said to Andy I think that's exactly where it was and Andy had said that's fine by me, could a viewer then have still called in and said no, it wasn't, because it's moved and it's reviewed again so now we have got the referee saying it's fine, the player saying it's fine and then you have to go back again and you still get disqualified.
ANDY McFEE: Yeah, the referee's decision is final in that circumstance I think because we would say, look, the player has brought it to the committee's attention. He's given us the best information that he has, and we will accept that going forward.
I see that somewhat similar to the player that hits his ball into a lateral water hazard and he's convinced that it's gone in here, and calls the referee over and the referee says on that evidence we'll proceed from here and a television picture later shows he didn't go in there, he went a hundred yards further back or whatever. Then that I think in that circumstance, you would say, look, the player has done absolutely everything he can here, and there's nothing more he can do. Once a referee is involved in it, then I think that's the end of it.
Unless the story that the player gives is so wildly far off the mark, and that just doesn't happen.

Q. So there is a danger the game is going to be slowed down because every small instant like this could be calling for a referee's ruling.
ANDY McFEE: Well, I guess there's that possibility, but we have as you probably know, our tournament committee don't like people calling in for rulings that they should know. And this doesn't fall into that category, because Pádraig did know the ruling. The problem wasn't that he just wasn't aware that he had breached any rule.
Since the Tournament Committee pronounced on this, there's been a mark number of -- or a decrease number of rulings that we've been called to, which we say are attributable. Players are dealing with those themselves and when they call us now, there's usually some kind of angle to the question that you think, yeah, I can see why you need some help here.
So I don't know that that's going to have an impact going forward.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance.

End of FastScripts

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