• The Masters

Tiger avoids disqualification but gets two-stroke penalty

ESPN staff
April 13, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

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Tiger Woods has been handed a two-stroke penalty for a bad drop during his second round at the Masters on Friday.

The decision means Woods now sits on an overall score of one-under par, five shots adrift of Jason Day's lead heading into the third round.

Officials reviewed claims that world No. 1 Woods took an illegal drop after his ball hit the pin at the 15th hole and span back into the water. After being alerted by a television viewer the tournament committee initially assessed the incident as Woods finished his round on Friday afternoon and deemed it fair, but subsequent comments from Woods led to the situation being re-evaluated.

After meeting with Woods on Saturday morning, the committee ultimately decided to give the four-time Masters winner a two-stroke penalty rather than disqualify him from the tournament.

"After being prompted by a television viewer, the rules committee reviewed a video of the shot while he was playing the 18th hole," Masters committee chief Fred Riley said in the statement. "At that moment, based on the evidence, the committee determined he had complied with the rules.

"After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played further from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.

"The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

"The penalty of disqualification was waived by the committee under Rule 33 as the committee had previously reviewed the information and made its intitial determination prior to the finish of the player's round.''

There was no hint of controversy at the time when Woods dropped to replay his shot, but following his post-second round press conference, there were claims Woods had dropped the ball further away from the initial position than permitted.

The United States Golf Association rule 26-1a states that a player must take their drop "as near as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played", but Woods suggested he had opted to take the re-stroke "two yards away" from the original position.

The Rules Committee Decision

Tiger Woods avoided a DQ © Getty Images
  • "After being prompted by a television viewer, the rules committee reviewed a video of the shot while he was playing the 18th hole. At that moment, based on the evidence, the committee determined he had complied with the rules.
  • "After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played further from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.
  • "The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty.
  • "The penalty of disqualification was waived by the committee under Rule 33 as the committee had previously reviewed the information and made its intitial determination prior to the finish of the player's round.''

That prompted claims that Woods contravened the drop rule and that he should have therefore incurred a two-stroke penalty, instead of the one extra shot he signed for at the conclusion of his round of 71. That would mean he signed an incorrect scorecard - for which the usual penalty is disqualification.

Woods was reprieved from that punishment by the recently-instated USGA rule 33-7 - which was added in 2012, ostensibly to deal with rule infringements that are picked up by television viewers but not noticed at the time by the player involved.

The Augusta National comittee interpreted the rule as applying in Woods' case.

Rule 33-7 states: "A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the committee considers such action warranted."

Following his comments that "rules are rules" over the officials' decision to penalise 14-year-old Chinese star Guan Tianlang a one-stroke penalty for slow play, Woods proceeded to give an explanation of his drop, which appeared to suggest he did not operate within the official rules.

"I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, it's really grainy there," Woods said during his post-round press conference. "And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop.

"So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back.

"I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit - that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back.

"I felt that that was going to be the right decision to take off four right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly."

In normal circumstances, Woods would have been able to drop two yards behind his original shot if he was dropping under rule 26-1b, which says drops must keep "the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped."

However, because his shot ricocheted off the flag and back into the water at an angle, the correct line for a drop under rule 26-1b would have been somewhere down the opposite side of the 15th fairway. If the ball had flown straight into the water, the spot he dropped would have been perfectly acceptable.

Because Woods' comments effectively highlighted the infringement, the question remains as to whether or not the 37-year-old was aware that he was not applying the rules correctly. Six-time major champion Sir Nick Faldo was among a number of pundits to suggest that Woods should consider withdrawing even in light of the ruling, to protect his own integrity and that of the game.

Hank Haney, Woods' former coach, suggested the player may yet chose this option. However, the two-shot penalty decision received support from others within the sport.

"Take the fact that it was Tiger out of the equation and it is a fair ruling," Graeme McDowell said on Twitter. "Since it is him the debate begins about TV ratings etc."

Woods subsequently accepted the penalty - while clarifying that he was not aware he was infringing the rules at the time of the drop.

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