Sport Golf

Sunday 19 November 2017

Harrington embraces rules change after penalty for wind interference is scrapped

gOLF

Karl MacGinty

ONE of Padraig Harrington's bugbears has been addressed by a change in the rules of golf.

From the start of next year, a player will not incur a penalty if his ball is moved by the wind after address. Instead it will merely be played from its new position.

This was just one of a raft of alterations unveiled yesterday by the R&A and Harrington, the ruling body's golfing ambassador, enthused: "I'm delighted with the changes, in particular the 'ball moving after address'.

"Every time the wind blows I am worried my ball is going to move and I am worried about grounding my putter, distracting me from trying to hole my putt."

The Dubliner was penalised a stroke on the Friday at the Masters in 2009 when his ball moved after address on the 15th green, and Rory McIlroy lost a shot on the seventh hole of his final round at this year's British Open.

"The change will speed up play, there won't be as many suspensions and players won't be getting disqualified or penalised unfairly," added Harrington.

In other changes recommended by a four-year review of the rules, amateurs will be allowed to play for hole-in-one prizes of unlimited value as opposed to the current £500 threshold.

Under the new rules aimed at amateurs thinking of a professional career, players will now be able to enter into an agreement with an agent or sponsor as long as they do not receive any financial gain while still an amateur.

Players will also be able to smooth sand in a bunker before playing from the hazard, "provided it is for the sole purpose of caring for the course and Rule 13-2 (improving lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play) is not breached".

This covers a situation where a caddie may unwittingly rake over footmarks made by his player in a large bunker even though his ball may still be in the same trap some distance up the fairway.

The penalty for starting late, but within five minutes of the correct time, has been reduced from disqualification to loss of the first hole in match play or two strokes at the first hole in stroke play. Previously this penalty reduction could be introduced as a condition of competition.

Harrington and McIlroy this week go hunting for the biggest first prize in golf, $2m, at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters, a 30-man invitational which is not sanctioned by any tour.

Phil Mickelson has dropped out of the world top 10 for the first time since February 2004 -- he is now ranked No 11. His place goes to fellow American Webb Simpson.

Irish Independent

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