Sergio Garcia reflects on 'unfortunate' Li Haotong penalty in Dubai
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 30/01/19 2:24pm
Sergio Garcia believes Li Haotong has "learned the hard way" after he was penalised for a breach of one of the new Rules of Golf in Dubai.
Li fell foul of the new regulation preventing caddies from helping with alignment as he putted for birdie on the final green on Sunday, although many observers - including European Tour professionals - thought the two-shot penalty imposed was unjust.
The Chinese star's caddie was deemed to have been helping him line up his short putt when he "began to take his stance", although he had clearly moved to one side by the time Li addressed his ball and rolled in the chance for what he initially thought was his 71st shot of the day.
Garcia appeared to agree with the penalty under the description of the rule, and he insisted the players had a responsibility to learn the new rules thoroughly to avoid suffering a similar fate.
"It's what it is," said Garcia ahead of this week's inaugural Saudi International. "The Rules of Golf are there for everyone, and it doesn't matter, or it shouldn't matter, who breaks them, even though they weren't trying or anything like that. Everybody has got their books and they showed all the new rules and the things that you can and cannot do.
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"I understand it's the beginning of the year and some of them, you have to be careful because if you don't think about it, you might go back to what you've been doing your whole life. But you know, I'm sure that from now on, it won't happen to him again.
"It's not the right way to learn it, but it's the hard way, but I'm sure it won't happen to him again because he'll be careful what he does. It's unfortunate, but it's the Rules of Golf."
European Tour chief executive, Keith Pelley, has contacted the R&A to express his concern over the wording of the ruling, and while he agreed the penalty was correct, he described it as "grossly unfair".
Garcia added: "It is always nice for Keith to look after us but, at the same time, you've got to be careful because if you start making exceptions here and there, then where do you stop?
"So at the end of the day, when it comes down to the rules, we are responsible, we and the officials have to take care of it. If you make a mistake, you get penalised and that's it. I've always said that I'd rather get penalised if I've done something wrong than get away with it and know that I've done wrong.
"I don't know if there's other people that can live with that, but for me, it's tough to know that I've done something wrong and kind of let me get away with it. I think as the year goes on, everybody will be paying a little bit more attention to it and they will be a little bit more careful with what they do."