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Officials' mistake enabled Woods to avoid Masters DQ

ESPN staff
May 1, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Tiger Woods avoided disqualification only after Masters officials made a mistake in their ruling © Getty Images
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Tiger Woods should have been disqualified from this year's Masters Tournament but rules officials made a mistake with their initial ruling, the Royal & Ancient and United States Golf Association have confirmed.

Woods, the world No. 1, was the subject of much scrutiny throughout the first major of the year - after incorrectly dropping his ball during the second round of the tournament at Augusta National.

Woods was called to the course early on Saturday morning to meet with rules officials, after television replays showed - and the 14-time major champion himself admitted - that he had not dropped "as near as possible" to his initial shot, a clear rules infringement that should have seen him receive a two-shot penalty.

Most observers expected Woods to be disqualified after signing for an incorrect scorecard - as many players have been in the past - however, the rules committee instead decided to impose a two-shot penalty, exercising the little-known rule 33-7 to keep him in the event.

On Wednesday the R&A and USGA clarified that Woods should actually have been disqualified for his actions but the fact that the rules committee had initially - incorrectly - ruled that the player had not infringed any rules - without speaking to Woods first - before latter evidence confirmed that in fact he had, meant that the committee were within their rights to exercise rule 33-7 and allow the American to play on.

"The Masters Tournament Committee concluded that its actions taken prior to Woods' returning his scorecard created an exceptional individual case that unfairly led to the potential for disqualification," a long statement concluded. "In hindsight, the Committee determined that its initial ruling was incorrect, as well as that it had erred in resolving this question without first seeking information from Woods and in failing to inform Woods of the ruling.

"Given the unusual combination of facts - as well as the fact that nothing in the existing Rules or Decisions specifically addressed such circumstances of simultaneous competitor error and Committee error - the Committee reasonably exercised its discretion under Rule 33-7 to waive the penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d, while still penalising Woods two strokes for playing from a wrong place."

The two governing bodies stressed, however, that Woods' case will not set a precedent for future waived disqualifications.

"The Woods ruling was based on exceptional facts, as required by Rule 33-7, and should not be viewed as a general precedent for relaxing or ignoring a competitor's essential obligation under the rules to return a correct scorecard," the statement added.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the "television viewer" who phoned in Woods' rules infringement was actually Champions Tour golfer David Eger - an experienced former tournament director.

"I could see there was a divot - not a divot, a divot hole - when he played the shot the second time that was not there the first time," Eger told Sports Illustrated, revealing he rang a member of the Masters rules committee directly to report the offence. "I played it again and again [on TV].

"I could see that the fairway was spotless the first time he played the shot and there was that divot hole, maybe three or four feet in front of where he played after the drop."

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