Harrington run-in with rules helps Finch avoid similar fate
Published 04/02/2011 | 05:00
Padraig Harrington's European Tour rivals are learning from the Dubliner's Abu Dhabi misfortune and doing everything in their power to ensure they don't get disqualified for accidental rules infractions.
Former Irish Open winner Richard Finch -- one of only eight players to break par in blustery conditions at the Qatar Masters yesterday -- admitted that Harrington's mishap a fortnight ago may have saved him from suffering a similar fate yesterday, as he was more conscious of the rules regarding marking and addressing the ball on the greens.
Finch was on his final green when he moved away from his ball moments after he had addressed a 12-foot putt for par on the par-five ninth.
"I didn't feel comfortable when I stood over the ball, so I decided to back off and start again, and as I was sort of walking back and taking two or three paces, my caddie said, "I think the ball may have moved," said the 2008 Adare Manor champion.
"It was news to me. So, I asked my playing partners and they said they didn't see anything at all. Then we called for the referee only because of what happened with Padraig -- it was important to get it right."
As it was Finch's last hole, he was taken to the TV compound to view footage of the incident and was cleared of any rules infraction.
"What may of happened is that it oscillated in the strong winds, but it didn't move," said Finch. "It was a slightly disturbing moment and I'm happy that it was dealt with correctly and the right outcome was agreed."
The Englishman ended his round sharing second place on two-under after a 70.
Gusting winds wreaked havoc on a course set up as though it could easily host a US Open, but with winds more akin to a British Open.
It was a sour cocktail, with only 10 players breaking par -- world No 2 Martin Kaymer failed to manage a single birdie in a 77.
Steve Stricker, competing in Europe for the first time in 16 years, could be heading home to Wisconsin early after a 76, while fellow American John Daly signed for a 77.
Retief Goosen, however, was able to celebrate his 42nd birthday in some style, after a three-under-par 69 left him a stroke clear at the top of the leaderboard, although Niclas Fasth, one of four players on two-under, was among six men still to complete their rounds when poor light halted play.
Growing up on the windswept links gems in Ireland certainly stood Peter Lawrie in good stead as he headed the five-man Irish contingent.
Lawrie had just two bogeys on his card and he also managed two superb birdies on his first day as a fully-fledged TaylorMade staff player.
"It was just a matter of keeping the bogeys off the card and grabbing the odd birdie where you could," he said.
"Having played so much golf in conditions like this back home was a big benefit, and level par is something I would have definitely have taken going out. I'm really happy as there are going to be a lot of train wrecks out there."
Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey had 74s, with Hoey eagling his 10th hole.
Paul McGinley signed for a 77, and Darren Clarke headed straight to the practice range, and more fighting with the conditions, after shooting a 78.
Clarke recorded three birdies in his round, but also included five bogeys and two double bogeys.
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