Tim Finchem requests rules review

Updated: January 25, 2011, 7:07 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

SAN DIEGO -- In the aftermath of two high-profile disqualifications in professional golf tournaments, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Tuesday that he will urge golf's rules-making bodies to examine situations in which players can get bounced from tournaments because they signed an incorrect scorecard.

Camilo Villegas was disqualified from the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was disqualified last week at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

In both cases, their infractions would have brought a two-stroke penalty.

[+] EnlargeFinchem
AP Photo/Rob CarrPGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is asking the USGA to examine situations in which players can get bounced from tournaments because they signed an incorrect scorecard.

But because their penalties did not come to light until after they had signed their scorecards -- and because television viewers brought it to tournament officials' attention after the fact -- the rules leave no choice but for the player to be disqualified.

If a player signs for a score lower than what he shot, he is disqualified; if he signs for a higher one, that score stands.

"There needs to be some common sense here," Finchem said Tuesday at Torrey Pines, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open.

Villegas was playing the first round of the Hyundai in Hawaii when his pitch shot to the 15th green rolled back toward him. While waiting for his ball to trickle down a hill, Villegas flicked a divot away with his club that was in the ball's path.

That violates a rule which says you cannot remove a loose impediment in the path of your moving ball.

Harrington inadvertently moved his golf ball last week during the first round in Abu Dhabi when picking up his marker. There is no penalty as long as the ball is replaced, but the ball moved ever so slightly and Harrington felt it had returned to its previous position.

A viewer watching in slow-motion in high definition noticed that the ball had not returned to its original spot.

Again, because the infraction was brought to light after Harrington signed his card, he was disqualified.

"We are on record from a few years ago with the USGA [United States Golf Association] questioning the rule as it is written as it relates to the penalty," Finchem said. "We questioned and asked several years ago for a review of the rule because we felt that perhaps the penalty was out of sync with the infraction in some of these situations. So that continues to trouble us.

"Based on the two situations in recent weeks, we are re-articulating our concern to the USGA. And I've spoken at length to the European Tour a couple of times in the last 10 days, and they also are joining with us in questioning this rule.

"Really, when I say question it, asking for a full and thorough review of the rule. Asking ourselves is there a better way to do this from a rules standpoint, especially in light of today's technology."

Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, said the rule has been reviewed several times, with no resolution.

The USGA governs the game in the United States and Mexico while the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews handles the rest of the world.

Both the PGA Tour and European Tour abide by the rules in their respective regions and prefer not to deviate -- although they could by enacting local rules at their tournaments.

Finchem suggested an additional two-stroke penalty for a player who has no knowledge that he violated a rule and it is discovered after the scorecard is signed. He said he has a meeting scheduled with the USGA executive committee next week to discuss the matter.

"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.

It has often been suggested that the PGA Tour -- or the European Tour -- enact its own rule to handle such situations, something the tours who prefer to avoid.

"We have the option to write our own rules," Finchem said. "We maintain that position under our regulations. ... However, we think it's important for the sport, if at all possible, to maintain a consistency of the rules throughout.

"Everybody pretty much in golf agrees with that. ... There may be reason for deviation from time to time and we've had a couple of those, but right now we're not even thinking about that."

In both instances concerning Villegas and Harrington, they accepted the penalty and did not complain.

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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