One day after cameras caught Sergio Garcia tapping down an area in front of his putting line at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the Spaniard was cleared of any wrongdoing by European Tour officials.
During his opening-round 76, Garcia was seen using his putter to flatten out an area just in front of his ball mark on the 18th green at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. If the area in question was a spike mark, the action would have resulted in a two-shot penalty; Garcia insisted, though, that it was an old pitch mark - which can be repaired without penalty. On Friday, Tour official John Paramor met with Garcia to review the footage and ultimately agreed with the 34-year-old's explanation.
"John Paramor is satisfied with Sergio's version of the matter and that is the end of the issue," read a statement released by the Tour.
The potential violation is a hot-button issue in Europe, where Simon Dyson came under fire when he tapped down a spike mark with his ball during an event in October. After facing a disciplinary hearing, the Englishman received a probationary sentence and could be suspended from competition should he commit another rules violation within the next 18 months.
Despite the controversy and a difficult opening round, during which Garcia received medical attention for a shoulder injury and called the rough at the National Course "dangerous," the Spaniard bounced back Friday to card a bogey-free 68 and make the cut on the number. After completing play, he didn't mince words over being associated with one of golf's most dreaded terms based on what he felt was an innocuous move to repair a ball mark.
"It's fine to call in when you can see that someone has cheated. But to say that about someone without knowing all the facts is wrong," he said, according to Golf Digest. "Being related to that word is the most disgusting thing that can happen to any golfer. So it was a little disappointing. I'm happy it was cleared up with John and I was able to play today."