GRAEME McDowell has claimed the world’s leading golfers are running scared of armchair anoraks after picking up a two-shot penalty in his opening round at Wentworth.
Following an incident similar to the one that led to Fifer Peter Whiteford being disqualified in the Avantha Masters in India earlier in the season, the former US Open champion ended up signing for a triple-bogey 8 at the last in his 74.
The penalty stemmed from his ball moving a fraction as it sat on top of some branches after McDowell had carved his tee shot into trees. The player himself was around 10 ft away at the time and, like Whiteford, wasn’t even sure it had moved. But, after hacking back out on to the fairway, McDowell asked Richard Boxall, the Sky on-course reporter walking with his group, to get someone in the studio to check the incident in slow motion.
Sure enough, it showed the ball had, in fact, rotated by a couple of dimples, though by then one spectator had already brought the incident to light and it wasn’t long before the European Tour had received at least one call from a TV viewer.
McDowell said: “It was one of those freak scenarios in golf. I caused it, but, unfortunately, it was a compounded error and looking back I’m not sure what I could have done [to avoid the penalty].
“We are probably calling in a referee once every couple of rounds because there are so many fiddly rules and so many watching [on TV] who like the Rules of Golf that we are so damned scared.”
At least McDowell wasn’t disqualified over his incident. While slow motion pictures also showed Whiteford’s ball had moved as he was about to chip to the green in the third round in India, that was only discovered the following day, when it was too late.
“It is almost identical to what happened to Peter Whiteford,” said John Paramor, the European Tour’s chief referee, of the McDowell incident.
“Graeme thought the ball may have moved so at that stage he says: ‘Stop. Let’s get someone in here and ask them.’ That, unfortunately, was Whiteford’s problem as even though his playing partners said they didn’t see his ball move, he should have checked with rules officials just to make doubly sure.”