Khan hit with record £8,000 fine for 16-second delay at Irish Open

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Simon Khan incurred the largest known fine in the history of the European Tour during the first round of the Irish Open yesterday. His crime? For taking 16 seconds too long to play a tee-shot. Welcome to the wonderfully logical world of golf.

Simon Khan incurred the largest known fine in the history of the European Tour during the first round of the Irish Open yesterday. His crime? For taking 16 seconds too long to play a tee-shot. Welcome to the wonderfully logical world of golf.

If only the 32-year-old from Essex had instead reacted to a drop-ruling by lashing out with his sand-wedge - all but wrecking a buggy and a tree in the process - before questioning the integrity of the Tour's chief referee. Then he may well have "escaped" with a £5,000 fine - just like Sergio Garcia did in Australia four years ago - instead of the £8,000 Khan was hit with yesterday.

Or how about if he had simply marched off in the middle of a major, telling his partners he was just nipping to the toilet while really heading for the nearest airport and so treating the US Open with the ultimate contempt? Well, that might also have landed him a £5,000 fine, just as it did Ronan Rafferty in the 1990s.

In fact, if Khan - who kept his composure enough to finish at two-under-par, two shots behind the leaders, Nick Dougherty and Klas Eriksson - had streaked down the 18th fairway at Carton House here, screaming "Peter Alliss is the Anti-Christ" then he would have been forgiven for expecting his punishment to be quite so penal. And his misery did not end there, for when Khan was dragged in for a meeting that lasted almost an hour with Andy McFee, the Tour's senior referee, he also discovered he had been fined £4,000 for a similar misdemeanour at the Forest of Arden last week.

A letter is in the post informing him that all future time fines he picks up this season will be doubled - that is, the next one, £16,000, the one after that £32,000... and so on, ad infinitum. Indeed, it will take Khan only seven more time penalties to reach £1m. And, no, he hasn't any lifelines left.

"It's getting expensive and I've got to address it," said Khan, who has some form in this regard having been docked a penalty shot at Wentworth last year for two time penalties in the same round and fined £2,000 the very next week at the Wales Open, where ironically he won his first Tour title. "My wife is 30 weeks pregnant and we'd have probably spent that money down Mothercare."

There was a mixed bag of emotions from his fellow professionals - horror at the scale of the fine, sympathy with the Tour's mission to stamp out the curse of plus-five-hour rounds. Indeed, Padraig Harrington, one of Khan's partners yesterday, sounded delighted that action was being taking. "It's a much better system than America - they're so slack there," the Dubliner said after his 73 kept him in touch with Colin Montgomerie (71), and Darren Clarke (70). "And while it cost Simon £8,000, I dropped three shots because of knowing we were being clocked. At the 14th I rushed my tee shot and double-bogeyed, then at the 17th I did it again and bogeyed."

Khan also bogeyed that par-three hole, after he had taken those so costly 56 seconds to repeatedly change clubs before hitting his tee-shot over the green. He would have stuck with his first choice if he had realised McFee was nearby with a stopwatch. "I didn't know Andy was following us," he said. "He was actually raking a bunker when I saw him on the 16th."

McFee did not admit acting "undercover", but did say that the Tour Committee had instructed referees not to make their "timings" so obvious. En-"trap"-ment, they may someday call this technique.

What Rory McIlroy would have made of it all is anyone's guess, but then at 16-years-old, the incredible amateur from Belfast still has the blessed ignorance of youth. Not that he has much else to connect him with his age-group as a quite staggering round of 71, one-under-par, proved yesterday.

IRISH OPEN (Maynooth) Leading first round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 68 K Eriksson (Swe); 69 M Eliasson (Swe), S Dodd; 70 D Mooney, D Clarke, S Khan, R Muntz (Neth), D Howell, L Westwood; 71 J Kingston (SA), S Wakefield, M Angel Jimenez (Sp), C Montgomerie, G Storm, J-F Lima (Por), M Foster, M Cayeux (Zim), S Dyson, A Cabrera (Arg); 72 G Brand Jnr, P Gustafsson (Swe), E Canonica (It), A Oldcorn, S Scahill (NZ), L Slattery, R Karlsson (Swe), O Wilson, B Dredge, M Lafeber (Neth), P Broadhurst, I Garbutt, S Manley, A McLardy (SA), P Edberg (Swe), L Walker, R Sterne (SA), J Skold (Swe), A Marshall, R-J Derksen (Neth), P Hanson (Swe), P McGinley.

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