PETER Whiteford’s hopes of adding to Scottish golf’s feel- good factor ended in bitter disappointment yesterday as the Fifer was disqualified from the Avantha Masters in India after becoming the latest golfer to fall foul of an armchair jury.
The 31-year-old from Windy-gates, who led the event at the halfway stage and was only one shot off the lead at the start of the final round, saw his challenge come to a shuddering halt after just three holes on the last day in New Dehli.
It followed an incident at the 18th hole in his third round on Saturday, with television replays of Whiteford’s third shot there showing that his ball rolled a fraction before he played to the green.
Aware that may have been the case, the Scot brought the matter to the attention of his caddie, a fellow player and TV cameraman, but they all felt the ball hadn’t moved and so he continued to finish the hole and signed his card for a level-par 72.
However, following the intervention of some eagled-eyed Sky TV viewers on Saturday night, the European Tour rules committee reviewed the incident yesterday and agreed that Whiteford’s ball had, in fact, moved.
That being the case, he should have called a one-shot penalty on himself and replaced his ball. By not doing so, he signed for a score lower than that taken for failing to include the penalty and that meant he was disqualified.
“Being in the last group he would have had many cameras on him and he could reasonably have known by asking one of us to check the footage,” said chief referee John Paramor, who warned Whiteford of the review taking place before he teed off and drove the player and his caddie back to the clubhouse after the disqualification was confirmed.
“We would have established at that time that the ball had, in fact, moved and he would have been able to apply the correct penalty at that stage. Unfortunately, he didn’t and we had to take a hard line which, in this instance, was disqualification.”
Whiteford, who was bidding for his breakthrough win on the European Tour and had still been out in front until he double- bogeyed the 17th on Saturday, admitted he had made a mistake by not reviewing the incident with a rules official. “I should have reviewed it with the referee before signing my card,” he said. “You can see when you look at it on TV that the ball moved. John spoke to me before I went out and said they were going to review it from a different angle, so my head wasn’t in it from the first tee.”
Whiteford, who had watched all his Scottish colleagues on the European Tour record a host of top-ten finishes in the opening few events of the 2012 season and was on course to get in on the act himself, added: “It’s not been a very good day but I’m not cheating. It’s disappointing but it’s just one of those things.”
The action taken against Whiteford comes just over a year after Colombian Camilo Villegas was disqualified for a rules violation that a television viewer called in during the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Other high-profile players to fall foul of armchair juries over the years have included Craig Stadler, Paul Azinger and Juli Inkster.
Whiteford’s disqualification opened the door for Jbe Kruger to claim his maiden European Tour title, the 25-year-old South African closing with a 69 for a 14-under-par total and a two-stroke victory over Spaniard Jorge Campillo and Germany’s Marcel Siem.