Masters Diary: Lawmakers finally rule vigilante viewers' interventions out of bounds

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The Independent Online

What a good day to bury good news. The timing of this important golfing announcement may have been baffling – coming an hour before first tee-off in the year's opening major – but surely only the dustiest of traditionalists would argue with the rule change.

After years of procrastination, the game's two governing bodies – the R&A and the USGA – have acted to ensure that the farcical scenario of Padraig Harrington's disqualification in Abu Dhabi in January is not repeated. Common sense has come out on top.

Harrington had already signed for a 65 when a TV viewer raised the issue of his ball moving as he marked it on a green – and because of that, the punishment could not just be a two-stroke penalty. Harrington signed for a wrong score and was thus out, regardless of the fact that he didn't even know he had breached a rule.

Under this revised decision – and, of course, at the discretion of the committee – the player still receives the penalty associated with the breach of the underlying rule, but is not dq'ed. So Harrington's score would have been updated to five-under instead of seven-under.

However, this does not mean the end of those golfing vigilantes who patrol the coverage from their own armchairs. They will still be able to ring and get players dq'ed. The two organisations confirmed that the disqualification penalty still applies for scorecard breaches that arise from ignorance of the Rules of Golf, which was relevant to another recent high-profile incident.

In the first PGA Tour event of the year in Hawaii, the Colombian Camilo Villegas was disqualified for signing an incorrect card after a TV viewer noticed he had pressed down a divot in an area where his chip was rolling back down a slope. In that case, Villegas still would be out for not knowing the rule.

The new ruling is already being applied at this Masters. Peter Dawson, R&A chief executive, said: "For some time we have been concerned that, in certain limited circumstances, disproportionate disqualification penalties have been required by the rules."

Who will be world No 1? You do the maths

As if to prove the open nature of this Masters, six players could be No 1 come Sunday evening. The maths are complicated, so deep breath. Here's how it will pan out: If Westwood wins, he becomes No 1. If Mickelson wins, he becomes No 1 so long as Kaymer is not second alone. If Donald wins, he becomes No 1 so long as Westwood is not second alone and Kaymer is outside the top three. If McDowell wins, he becomes No 1 so long as Mickelson is not second alone and Westwood is outside the top four and Kaymer finishes outside the top 55 (or misses cut). If Woods wins, he becomes No 1 if Mickelson is not second alone and Westwood is outside the top three and Kaymer is outside the top 18. If none of the above happens, Kaymer remains No 1.

Sky gets the limit when at Augusta

Sky have quickly learnt that the Augusta Green Jackets are not yet totally beholden to the sporting master that is TV. Apart from continuing to limit the coverage, they limit the number of Sky workers who can produce this limited coverage. Apparently Sky – who are showing the Masters in 3D – asked for more than 100 accreditations. They were granted 41. I ask you, what does many millions buy you nowadays?

Choi's caddie gets stuck in the woods

Spare a thought for Andy Prodger, the former caddie of Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie, who had to wade through seven different head covers yesterday. The Englishman's employer, KJ Choi, teed off with no iron longer than a seven in his bag. Instead, Choi took hybrid woods – which aped the irons from three to six – in an attempt to hit the ball higher and hold the sloping greens.

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