• Alistair Tait

Clerical errors are for accountants, not golfers

Sometimes it’s hard to justify the Rules of Golf to someone who doesn’t play the game.

This is one of those times.

I can’t believe 17 years after Mark Roe was disqualified from the Open Championship that professional golfers are still being tossed out of golf tournaments for an incorrect scorecard.

Eddie Pepperell is the latest to pay a heavy price for a minor clerical error. On this occasion he violated Rule 3.3. Back in Roe’s day it was 6-6d. Doesn’t matter what the number is, it’s a stupid rule that should’ve been removed when the new rules came out on 1 January 2019.

Common sense should have told the rules makers that. Unfortunately, common sense and the rules of golf often qualify for the oxymoron tag.

Pepperell was disqualified for signing for a wrong score in the opening round of the Qatar Masters. He shot a 71 and signed for a 71, but because he’d put down the wrong score on the card he had to walk under the rules.

Pepperell corrected his marker on two wrong scores. He’d been awarded a 5 on the 11th when he made six. He’d been given a three on the 16th as opposed to a four. However, he mistakenly changed the number for the 17th, not the 16th, and handed his card in. Pepperell pleaded mitigation but it fell on deaf ears. He tweeted:

“Quite disappointing as I actually took the time to change the original error, only to make a costlier one myself. I asked the referee if this had any bearing on my disqualification but it didn’t.”

There’s no blame on the referee since he has to enforce the rules of golf. Referees have no leeway. Rule 3.3b(3) states:

“Returned score lower than actual score or no score returned. The player is disqualified.”

Pepperell took it on the chin, but with reservations.

“The rules are the rules and I 100% accept that, but I can’t help feeling that this particular way of disqualification is a fair distance away from common sense, and that’s also disappointing.”

He’s correct to be disappointed: there is no common sense with this ruling.

At least Eddie will get over it. Roe never really did. He was ejected from the 2003 Open because he and Jesper Parnevik hadn’t exchanged scorecards on the first tee. Roe shot a 67 and would have been playing with Tiger Woods in the final round with a chance to win the Open.

He didn’t get that chance. He was back in his Surrey home by the time the final round started. Roe still has the scorecard, and still believes common sense should have prevailed that day.

It should have prevailed in Qatar too, especially when egregious errors such as Patrick Reed’s double violation in a bunker during the Hero World Challenge result in a two-shot penalty.

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