Sergio Garcia just squeaked into play for the weekend after officials queried and cleared him of a rules violation that took place during Thursday’s opening round of the HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
European Tour chief referee John Paramor greeted Garcia on Friday morning with the news that his actions of the previous day, in which he tamped down a mark on the green, were under review. The two watched video footage of the incident that showed the 10th-ranked player in the world marking his ball on the ninth hole of his round and then tapping something down on the green. Video via GolfCentralDaily:
By late Thursday night, this had the golf press questioning whether the precocious Spaniard had purposefully attempted to get an otherwise illegal edge. The Euro Tour was just getting over a significant and similar rules blow-up this fall, when Simon Dyson was ruled to have illegally tamped down a spike mark.
Fortunately for the golfer, Paramor accepted his contention that he fixed a ball mark, which is legal under Rule 16-1a (Touching Line of Putt), and Garcia followed his first-round 4-over 76 with a 68 to make the cut by one stroke.
Garcia, who required medical attention on Thursday after hitting out of what he termed "dangerous" rough, was not amused by the situation.
"Cheating is something I would definitely never do," Garcia told Golfweek’s Alistair Tait. "I talked to John and told him, ‘I’m pretty sure that it was a pitch mark that I repaired.’ The confusion was that I repaired it, but Martin [Kaymer] was going to putt, so I backed away to let him putt and then what you can see in the video is him putting and I’m tapping the pitch mark down."
Garcia, who will head into Saturday in a tie for 60th at even-par, nine shots back of 36-hole co-leaders Craig Lee and Rafael Cabrero-Bello, showed the mark to Paramor on Friday morning. Though he was cleared of any wrongdoing, Garcia was unhappy with the proceeding, which apparently involved another armchair arbitrator dropping a dime on the 18-time PGA and European Tour winner.
"It does feel quite bad to be related to the word 'cheating' when you have no proof and I’ve never ever cheated in my whole life," he said to Tait. "I have given myself plenty of penalty strokes when nobody saw it and I did.
"It hurt a little bit. I think people calling [in alleged rules violations] without having any proof is wrong. If you can really tell that it’s wrong that somebody’s cheated, then that’s fine, but when you have no proof at all, it’s not," Garcia added. "Being related to that word is the most disgusting thing that can happen to someone to me that has never, ever cheated. It was disappointing, but it was good to clear it up with John Paramor."