WHEN Phil Mickelson ambled into the locker-room in Abu Dhabi last Friday and spied Padraig Harrington, he shook his head slowly, shrugged his shoulders and offered commiserations to the Dubliner.
"Aw man, it's so unfortunate. This whole incident, it's a terrible thing to happen," said the Californian, a barely perceptible glint of devilment twinkling in his eye as he continued: "I really feel bad for ringing it in!"
Of course, emails from two TV vigilantes had brought about Harrington's disqualification from the HSBC Championship, but the Irishman appreciated Mickelson's humour.
"In the circumstances, that was perfect. Phil's a great lad, he really is," he said. "At the end of the day, laughter is the best way to help you get over situations like that."
Mickelson has gone home to San Diego to take on Tiger Woods in the Farmers Insurance Open, while Harrington this week plays for the first time in Bahrain at the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions.
Life on Tour has moved on, but the debacle which led to Harrington's disqualification in Abu Dhabi has led the R&A and the USGA to announce a review of one of the game's most basic rules.
A player's signature on his card is his bond and if his score doesn't include a penalty accrued at one hole, he's automatically disqualified -- even in situations like last week, when Harrington had no way of knowing a penalty was due as he left the recorder's hut.
The European and US Tours had already tried and failed to get the governing bodies to relax this rule to permit the addition of penalty strokes for offences which come to light after a player, in all innocence, signs his card.
Harrington, appointed earlier this month as an honorary ambassador by the R&A, was unsure last night if any viable change can or should be made to a rule which is central to the ethos of golf as a sport in which the player regulates himself.
"I don't think it's as clear-cut as people think, to make a change of rule like that," he explained. "It's probably been there for a hundred years now and for good reason.
"It's always going to be easier to talk about a change like that than actually do it. The sub-committee set up to figure out the right change to make would be a tough one to be on."