When Lucas Glover outlasted fellow Clemson University teammate Jonathan Byrd in a sudden-death playoff at Sunday’s Wells Fargo Championship finale — after Padraig Harrington avoided an all-too frequent rules gaffe — we’re sure we heard PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem heave a sigh of relief.
In a year marked by controversial breaches of golf’s edicts, and with the potential disbarment of a late-round Quail Hollow leader in the offing, all Finchem needed was yet another rules dust-up on top of the hot-headed Rory Sabbatini winning the tune-up for this week’s Players Championship.
Poster boy for rules gaffes. Harrington seems to be a lightning rod for USGA decrees. After finishing last week’s tourney at 10-under — an eventual five paces back of the tie at the top — Harrington learned that a marshal or a spectator accused him of teeing up ahead of the markers on the par-3 13th hole. The breach of Rule 11-4 would have meant a disqualification since the golfer did not correct his purported error immediately (it would be a two-stroke penalty otherwise).
Harrington signed his scorecard and accompanied rules officials and playing partner Phil Mickelson back to the area in question. What ensued was a silly exercise in futility — searching the alleged crime scene for Harrington’s divot.
“We weren’t 100% sure that was the exact divot,” Slugger White, the tour’s vice president for rules and competition told reporters of the effort to locate the precise clump of sod that Harrington dug up with his tee shot. “We looked around and looked around. There’s all kind of divots up there.”
After the hunt proved futile, the CSI: Quail Hollow team took to the video to try to end the controversy. Again, no conclusive evidence presented itself, at which point everyone agreed to believe in Harrington’s integrity — which is, as we have learned throughout this season of rules gaffes — what golf’s all about.
Harrington declared no harm, no foul.
No penalty. “There’s no doubt it is inconclusive,” he said to the media following the investigation. “You know, I’m one to tee way back, but I was pushing it up there, was trying to get my 6 iron up there. Next time I’ll make sure I give it a good yard instead of trying to [….] Such is life, as I said. It is inconclusive, and there’s not much we can do about it. There’s no penalty.”
Harrington infamously incurred a DQ earlier this year in the Abu Dhabi Championship when a replay showed his ball twitched on the green after he had replaced his marker. Indeed, his DQ — which occurred after he had signed his card because he was unaware his ball had moved — was one of the catalysts for a recent rules change. The USGA and Royal & Ancient changed the punishment for such a breach from banishment to a one-stroke penalty.
As for Sunday’s outcome, Glover beat Byrd on the first extra hole for his third career win. Sabbatini, who fired a seven-under 65 Sunday, finished third but was the leader in the clubhouse late into the final round. Fortunately for the suits in Ponte Vedra, they did not have to slap the wrist of the Quail Hollow champion.
Reports have suggested that the tour may suspend Sabbatini for 30 days after two unseemly incidents involving the temper-challenged South African. In the most recent episode, Sabbatini lobbed f-bombs and other profanities at his playing partner Sean O’Hair during the Zurich Classic.
So, all’s well that end’s well at Quail Hollow, and golf fans may look forward to Tiger Woods and the guys teeing it up in the next intriguing chapter of “What’s My Violation?”
Speaking of Woods, read how the world’s No. 8 overcame injuries to be able to play this week and in June’s U.S. Open.