Padraig Harrington makes putt – but bug on cup raises questions about rules

Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington and an official on Friday on the 2nd hole at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course.

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Padraig Harrington, with a large ladybug hat in his bag, knows the idiosyncrasies of flying insects well.

“Butterflies always do that,” he told his caddy. “They’re trying to change direction.”

Seconds earlier, on the 2nd hole on the Dom Pedro Victoria golf course, had a moth – from the left rim of the cup just as Harringtons par putt fell in the middle during the second round of the European Tour Portugal Masters on Friday. And because it happened, a lengthy conversation about the rules ensued – almost forcing the European Ryder Cup captain to hit his putt again.

“Well, I have to say I’ve never come across anything like it,” the announcer said on the Golf Channel broadcast.

The series started when Harrington hit his 5-foot putt. As he did so, a white moth flew in, sat on the lip – and seemed to fly away as the ball rolled past it. The concern was whether they touched each other – which would have forced Harrington to draw again due to Rule 11.1b Exception 2.

“The ball went in the lip – you know what, this could be a second apart, but it seemed really close,” Harrington told an official as they stood just off the green. “The butterfly moved a little away from the ball, but I don’t think they made contact.”

“The ball went in, but it was definitely the reason the moth took off again, because the ball hit the moth,” said an announcer on the Golf Channel broadcast.

“But did it work?” said another announcer. “To me, it really looked like the moth had left just before it got there.”

If the moth and ball touch, the rule is: “If the ball played from the putting green accidentally hits a person, animal or moving obstacle (including another ball in motion) on the putting green: The stroke counts not and the original ball or another ball must be replaced in its original spot.” In most cases, the rule comes into play before the putt reaches the hole — and not when — and helps when a ball is knocked off the line. But in this case, Harrington would have to sink another 5 footer.

Harrington moved on to the next hole, where the Golf Channel announcers reported that the Portugal Masters tournament director said Harrington was “completely safe”. Note that the Rules also clarify how Rule 11.1b Exception 2 is to be enforced, when it states: “Exception 2 to Rule 11.1b must be applied using the “known or almost certain” standard. Therefore, if there is knowledge or convincing evidence that the ball played from the putting green has inadvertently hit a person, animal or moving obstacle on the putting green, the stroke does not count.” In Harrington’s case, he said his ball didn’t hit the moth.

Harrington finished one-over 72 and is nine strokes from the lead.

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

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