| 5°C Dublin

Technology should be used to help the game

THERE are times when it'd be great to be able to 'shop' a sporting superstar.

Imagine how good it would have felt to all those millions of Irish fans sitting at home to scream 'handball' in the referee's ear as sneaky Thierry Henry wrecked our World Cup ambitions.

Yet even if it helps the good name of golf for television viewers to point out any transgressions by the game's star performers, it's disturbing that responsibility for policing the sport can be so easily ceded to the general public.

One must assume that the armchair fans who lodged reports which led to the disqualifications of Camilo Villegas in Hawaii a fortnight ago and Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi yesterday had the best interests of golf at heart.

However, what a wonderful opportunity this presents for any nitpicking busybody to earn his 15 minutes of fame.

The tragedy for Padraig Harrington is that his transgression was not visible to the naked eye and, like Camilo Villegas, he'd signed his card before the damning TV verdict came through.

So, with the swish of their pens, a mere two-stroke penalty turned into the ultimate sanction of disqualification.

Yet this whole process would be completely short-circuited, and players would be given the opportunity to face up to their errors, if the world's major tours took advantage of modern technology and monitored the TV broadcasts for themselves.

The US Tour tried it back in 1991 and soon dropped the idea because so few players were featuring in broadcasts.

With vastly superior digital cameras and much more intrusive coverage of events on the golf course these days, it makes a lot more sense for a rules official to keep an eye on the live telecast at all times -- thereby saving the players from themselves.

The convoluted, age-old rules of golf help give the game its beauty, but they should be supported by technology -- not held up to ridicule as they have been in two of the first three weeks of the season.

Irish Independent