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January 25 2011

11:36 PM

Finchem favors rules discussion

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Count PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem among those concerned by the recent spate of disqualifications that have happened the day after TV viewers reported rules violations.

In each case, the violation was inadvertent -- Camilo Villegas brushing away a piece of dirt as his ball rolled back down the slope beside the green; Padraig Harrington's ball moving so slightly after he picked up his marker that the infraction was only visible on high-definition TV.

The violations were reported after the broadcast and in each case, the player was disqualified from the tournament. But did this ultimate penalty fit the crime? Had the rules violation been uncovered before the player signed his scorecard, it would have been a two-shot penalty.

Finchem said Tuesday at the Farmers Insurance Open that he would like to see a thorough discussion of the issue as it relates to the penalty with golf's governing bodies, the USGA and Royal & Ancient.

The commissioner said that the TOUR raised the issue with the USGA several years ago and has rearticulated its concern in light of recent events. He said he's spoken to representatives of the European Tour several times over the last few weeks and they feel similarly.

Finchem said he is meeting with the USGA Executive Committee next week.

"I hope to have a conversation with them at that point in time, and I would hope that we could have a global conversation about the rule and certainly the penalty that is attached to it, because it obviously troubles a lot of people in terms of how it shakes out from time to time,' he said.

What worries him the most is the severity of the penalty. Harrington was one shot off the lead after the first round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship but was DQ’ed when the infraction was brought to his attention prior to his tee time in the second round. 

"I think the suggestion has been made in the past that perhaps it would be adequate to have an additional two-shot penalty to a player who had no knowledge that he violated a rule, and the tournament was over or the round was over, the scorecard was signed, and he is disqualified,” Finchem said.

"But there are other variations. I just think that there's a lot of discomfort with this whole situation and questions raised.  I don't want to assume what our position would be on any piece of it.  All I'm saying at this point is we ought to have an intelligent, thorough discussion of what we have today and what options might be available to us." – Helen Ross

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