KIRKCALDY golfer Peter Whiteford has held up his hands and admitted he only has himself to blame after seeing his hopes of a first ever European Tour win dashed by TV viewers.
Whiteford was in sparkling form, and in contention for his maiden title at the Avantha Masters in Delhi, India, after finishing his third round one shot behind overnight leader Jbe Kruger.
But the Fifer was left to rue an unfortunate ball moving incident late in Saturday’s round, which would eventually lead to his controversial disqualification.
It was Whiteford himself who brought attention to the fact that his ball may have moved as he addressed his approach to the 18th green.
But after seeking confirmation from his caddie, fellow competitors and a cameraman, they all confirmed they saw nothing and the 31-year-old completed his round and signed for a level-par 72.
However, TV viewers contacted Tour officials, who upon scrutinising replays determined his ball HAD rolled slightly to the right, and under the strict rules of golf, it meant a crushed Whiteford was evicted four holes into his final round, costing him a possible £250,000 winners cheque.
While the European Tour has accepted that Whiteford committed an innocent offence, the golfer himself has admitted that he blames himself for failing to call in the tournament referee.
“I didn’t think it would be a big issue because there was so many people around me that I asked,” he told SportsPress. “It was a school-boy error on my part – I should have consulted the ref before I signed my card and I’m gutted I didn’t.
“It’s my own fault for not doing it. It’s very disappointing, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.”
Euro Tour ref John Paramore confirmed: “If Peter had contacted a member of the rules team before signing his scorecard, the footage would have been reviewed at the time and he would have averted the disqualification penalty.”
Fellow golfers have rallied in support of Whiteford – with several top stars using Twitter to voice their concern at the role played by TV viewers in the disqualification, but Whiteford insisted: “I’ve not got a problem with it.
“The people that phoned in are golf fans and without them we don’t get paid. The only person I’m bitter at is myself for not going to see the ref before I signed my card.”
However, Whiteford confessed that he should have taken the viewing public, who watched his every move live on Sky Sports, into account when considering if his ball had moved.
“It’s not like I’m on TV that much!” he said. “If it happens any other week when there’s no cameras on you, you just go by what people are telling you.
“I just did what I would normally do. If you see on the TV, the ball moves when I’m looking at the target, and when I look back I thought it was in a slightly different position.
“But when you’re dealing with shadows and pressure – my head was in a spin because I’d just come off a double-bogey – you begin to wonder if you’re imagining things.
“I’m not making excuses, but that’s more or less what happened.”
Whiteford has been touched by the messages of support he has had from fellow players, and golf fans, and plans to use disappointment of Sunday to spur him on his pursuit of his first European Tour win.
“All the support I’ve had has been great,” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot of texts, and although I’m not on Twitter, I’ve heard a few of the messages.
“Everyone’s been very supportive, even the referee himself!
“It’s painful at the moment but it’s one of those things I’ll just have to deal with and get over.
“It’s just a pity I’ve got three weeks off because I’m just starting to play better for the first time in a long time.
“There are certainly positives because, in my mind, I was in control of the tournament for almost three rounds and that gives me belief that a win is not too far around the corner.
“Saying that without a cheque in my pocket is pretty hard to bear, but it’s still early days in the season.”