Padraig Harrington has been disqualified from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after being called to review an incident in his opening 65.
The three-time major winner, one off the lead overnight in Abu Dhabi, did not tee off in the second round after his hand brushed the back of his ball as he replaced it in front of his marker on the seventh green.
Andy McFee, European Tour Senior Referee, explained the ruling in a statement which said: “Harrington was disqualified for a breach of Rule 6-6d for signing for the wrong score on hole seven during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
“On the seventh green, Padraig replaced his ball and as he began to remove his marker, his finger was seen on TV to brush the ball, causing it to move. The movement of the ball during the specific act of replacing it is covered by Rule 20-3a and there is no penalty to this movement, but the ball must be replaced.
“Because the ball was not replaced, there is a breach of Rule 20-3a, the penalty for which is two strokes. As this penalty was not included in the score for hole seven, Padraig was disqualified for a breach of Rule 6-6d, signing for the wrong score on hole seven.”
Harrington said: "I was aware I hit the ball picking up my coin. I looked down at the time and was pretty sure it had just oscillated and had not moved, so I continued on.
"In slow motion it's pretty clear the ball has moved three dimples forward and it's come back maybe a dimple and a half.
"At the end of the day that's good enough, but I wouldn't have done anything differently yesterday - there was nothing I could do about it at that moment in time.
"If I'd called a referee over it would have been pointless because if he'd asked me where my ball was I'd have said it was there. As far as I was concerned it didn't move."
He added: “I felt I knew the rule at the time. I applied the rule as best I could in the situation but looking at the video today, it's pretty clear that it, you know, it's a hundred per cent looks like the ball has moved forward and not far enough back, and that's the issue at heart.
“I do believe that the rule is correct in terms of we have to be very precise about how we mark our golf balls and position the golf ball is in, and I do agree, I do fully agree, even though it's only a dimple and a half, in the end of the day, you know, somebody down the road could use five dimples as being okay and the next guy would use an inch as being okay.
“So I think it's fair enough that the penalty is there on the face of it.”
McFee also said: "It's a minute movement, but it's a movement and he never replaced it, so he should have included a two-stroke penalty.
"The fact that he is unaware he moved the ball unfortunately does not help him. Because he signed for a score lower than actually taken the penalty is disqualification."
The severity of the penalty will inevitably spark debate but Harrington was swift to back the rules.
“I would argue, though, in general, it does serve the game well that we have the best rules of any sport. They are applied across the board all the time. It's the one thing all golfers love about their sport is the fact that we can stand up and say, we have the best rules, we are the fairest, we call them on ourselves.
“I think in this situation and other situations like that, with the new technology, maybe going forward, that the penalties can be changed. But the actual rulings have to stay where they are. You know, as I said, 1 1/2 dimples becomes, as I said, half an inch becomes an inch; where do you stop?
“The rules are good, we abide very well, the players love the fact that we apply them and everybody who plays the game. You know, if there's somebody in your golf club that doesn't apply the rules, you know, everybody knows about it, and everybody ostracizes them. We love the standard that we play by. We have to stick to that, that's the best thing about our game.”
The role of television in this incident will also be a hot topic but again Harrington was swift to answer that point.
"I want to be on television. I want to have those ten million people watching me because that means I'm doing well.
"f I'm not on television and nobody is watching, I'm missing the cut.
"At the end of the day, like anything else, there's a little bit of extra responsibility not just with the rules but your etiquette, everything like that. When you get up the ranks and you get on that television, you have responsibilities and you're playing with a bigger audience and there's more distractions and there's more things going on.
"And if you want to be the best player in the world, if you want to be one of those players, you have to accept that there is the little bit of extra responsibility as you become a better player, and you'd better embrace it.
"The fact that the camera isn't on the guy who is down the field doesn't make any difference. As he becomes a better player, it will be on him. There's no competitive edge, let's say in, that sense. And it's fair enough. That's the responsibility of any player doing what it takes."