R&A moves to eradicate repeat of Roe's woe

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The Independent Online

Players in the 133rd Open Championship will be handed a redesigned scorecard with the words: "This is your card." Ivor Robson, the official starter, will give particular emphasis to the words when handing a card to players from the US Tour. It may sound a pedantic point but the Royal and Ancient, organisers of the game's oldest championship, hope to avoid the controversy that surrounded last year's Open.

In a bureaucratic blunder that cost Mark Roe a chance of winning the Open, the Sheffield man was disqualified when lying fourth in the third round along with Jesper Parnevik after the pair failed to exchange cards on the first tee. Their scores ended up on the wrong scorecards.

Roe admitted to forgetting to exchange cards for the first time. Parnevik, however, plays much of his golf in the United States where players are handed the card of a competitor whose scores they will be marking.

There was no question of the R & A relaxing the rules governing the scorecard - players are disqualified for signing for a score lower than they have taken - even though at the Open every shot is observed by a referee, an observer and a scorer, let alone international television. The R & A insist the same rules should apply at a club medal as at a major championship.

But the procedures surrounding the recording of scores has been updated with a dedicated team of recorders now in place and a host of officials cleared out of the scoring hut. The scorecard itself has also been altered, with the holes grouped in threes, the player's name enlarged at the top of the card and additionally printed under the box for the player's signature.

"It should make it rather difficult for someone to sign in the wrong place," said Peter Dawson, secretary of the R & A, "unless he doesn't know his own name. More difficult, but possibly not impossible. It is hard to imagine what else we could do to help. Please remember, it is the player's responsibility to sign for the correct score."

Though Roe acted with great dignity amid the huge disappointment of his exit from the championship at Sandwich, last week he vehemently criticised the R & A for the timing of the new international qualifier at Sunningdale two weeks ago. The players faced 36 holes in that event in one day, squeezed in between the French Open in Paris and the European Open on a new course in Dublin.

Roe failed to qualify but Dawson noted there was a full field of quality players. He added: "We didn't actually pick the date. The date was picked in liaison with the European Tour at a time that was thought to be convenient in all the circumstances."

Dawson said the withdrawal of 53 players from the qualifier at Congressional in the States would be raised at a meeting with the US Tour this week. "This is the first year we have had international qualifying and it would be a miracle if we got it right straight away," he said.

But the exemption system will be reviewed following the absence of Angel Cabrera, the 36th-ranked player in the world. "He moved from outside the top 50 at the cut-off date into the 30s without gaining a current form exemption which has taken us by surprise and we clearly need to look at situations like that."

Only 70 of the top 100 in the world will be teeing up but the R & A were happy that 94 of them entered and that 378 players with world ranking points took part in the qualifying process. But Dawson also pointed out that 11 players came through regional and local final qualifying, equalling the record. "The accusation that the new system would shut out the smaller man has proved unfounded," he said.