ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Padraig Harrington was disqualified from the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on Friday after he failed to replace a ball that had moved a fraction of an inch when he picked up his marker during the opening round.
The three-time major winner was called in before the second round to review video replays and accepted his disqualification after acknowledging his ball moved ever so slightly on the seventh green.
"It looks like it's moved," Harrington said. "So I think it's fair enough that the penalty is there on the face of it."
Harrington was in second place after shooting a 65 on Thursday. A television viewer e-mailed European Tour officials to report an infraction.
Under European Tour rules, the ball must be replaced if the coin causes it to move. A failure to do so results in a two-stroke penalty, and Harrington was disqualified for signing the wrong score after putting down a 3.
"You know what, a lot worse things could happen. You could be five ahead going into the last round," Harrington joked. "Yeah, it's disappointing. ... It's an awkward situation."
Germany's Martin Kaymer leads by three strokes after two rounds and is bidding to win this tournament a third time. On a wet, gloomy day, Kaymer shot a 7-under 65 that put him at 12-under 132.
He is followed by South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, who had a 71. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell is a shot behind Schwartzel.
European Tour referee Andy McFee said he was confident Harrington didn't deliberately cheat, but that "the fact that Padraig was totally unaware that this ball has moved doesn't unfortunately help him."
It is the second time that Harrington has been disqualified from a tournament. In May 2000 at the Benson and Hedges International at the Belfry, England, Harrington led by five shots after three rounds but had failed to sign his first-round card and was disqualified on Sunday morning.