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Official: DQs prompt rules reassessment

The USGA and the R&A, the two governing bodies that oversee the rules of golf, are in discussions about the changing of disqualification policies for situations in which players sign scorecards they don't know to be in violation.

"We're all bothered by what is a narrow set of circumstances where someone can get the facts right and still be disqualified," Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, told GolfDigest.com.

Recent disqualifications of Padraig Harrington and Camilo Villegas prompted the reassessment. Both stemmed from TV viewers contacting the PGA Tour and PGA European Tour about the players' rules infractions.

Harrington was DQ'd Friday from the Abu Dhabi Championship after the Irishman was judged to have illegally moved his ball without assessing a penalty shot during Thursday's first round.

Earlier this month, Villegas was sent packing after the opening round of a PGA Tour event in Hawaii after swatting at grass near the ball while it was still in motion, which also should have been a penalty.

"In Harrington's situation, he thought ball was replaced and only television is telling us otherwise," Davis said, according to the website. "He knew the rules, he thought he did everything right, he just didn't know all the facts."

The USGA is the governing body of golf rules in the U.S. and Mexico. The R&A, which takes its name from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, administers rules for the rest of the world.

"So the USGA and R&A will open it up again, but we also have to make sure we don't do something that has domino effect," Davis said.

Harrington acknowledged that he touched the ball but felt it hadn't moved.

"I'm well aware of the ruling on that situation, and it's happened many times over the years," Harrington said. "You know, I'm quite comfortable, if you touch a ball and it doesn't move and you feel it hasn't moved, it hasn't moved, and you don't need to -- there is no replacing.

"If you called the referee at that moment in time," he added, "in all good conscience, I couldn't have put the ball anywhere else but where it was."

Villegas was chipping up the slope to the 15th green when the ball twice rolled back toward him. The second time, Villegas walked over and casually swatted away some loose pieces of grass in front of the divot as the ball was still moving down the slope.

That is a violation of Rule 23-1 that says, "When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed." The penalty is two shots.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.