McGinley 'cheat' charge has Ferrie whistling in wind

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The high winds that suspended the Irish Open here yesterday were nothing to the "cheat" storm that blew through Carton House. The fact that Paul McGinley was at the centre of it made it all the more incredible.

The Irish hero of the 2002 Ryder Cup was on a trolley in a Dublin hospital when he heard that Kenneth Ferrie had accused him of "gamesmanship" . Before withdrawing from the event to have an emergency operation on a knee injury, McGinley had been playing with Ferrie, the Geordie professional, as 40mph gales blighted the morning's play.

On the 14th green ­ their fifth ­ Ferrie was approaching his putt when his ball moved in a gust. The 27-year-old asked McGinley what he should do. The Dubliner, thinking Ferrie had not yet addressed the ball, told him to replace it, which he duly did. But on the next tee, Ferrie requested a ruling from a referee, who informed him that he had broken the rules and had thus incurred a two-shot penalty. A double-bogey six had become an eight.

Ferrie was incensed, saying to McGinley: "Thanks for the two shots, mate." His mood did not improve any in the wind delay. "I was told quite emphatically to put it back and when someone of his stature tells you to do something you listen," said Ferrie. "It's a game of integrity, the sort where you help people you are trying to beat. Was it deliberate? I don't know. But I thought what happened was a bit naughty."

Ferrie later issued a statement saying he never meant "to suggest that Paul had acted improperly" but by then the damage had already been wreaked.

McGinley released his own statement which said: "I gave my opinion in good faith. I am not going to dignify any accusations of gamesmanship on my behalf as they are totally groundless."

Support rang out for McGinley from every tee box. Most tellingly, Ian Poulter, the third member of the three-ball, spoke up vehemently. "To accuse Paul of games-manship is the most pathetic thing I've ever heard," he said.

It could have even been enough to put Poulter off his game, although the Englishman resumed after the six-hour hiatus to finish off with a courageous 71 in atrocious conditions. That put Poulter in a five-way tie for the lead, with fellow Englishman Iain Pyman, Ireland's Padraig Harrington, Northern Irishman Michael Hoey and Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen. Sadly, any action on the fairways was taking secondary billing.