Masters: Woods assessed 2-shot penalty

Tiger Woods during the second round of the 2013 Masters.

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Should Tiger Woods have been DQ'd?

  • Yes, he broke the rules. 48%
  • No, the rule has grey area. 49%
  • Undecided. 4%

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Tiger Woods, like most of us, was in a holding pattern Saturday morning as the powers that be, in this case the green jackets of Augusta National, decided if it was disqualification or not for the World No. 1.

With the early groups beginning to tee off at Augusta, the competition committee headed by former USGA President Fred Ridley reviewed whether Woods took an illegal drop at the par-5 15th and, according to reports, decided to give Woods a two-shot penalty, citing Decision 33-7/4.5.

Augusta National decided to penalize Woods, and not disqualify him, because it had reviewed the drop during Woods' round, after a television viewer had called in to question the drop. The Competition Committee decided at the time that Woods' drop was valid.

"After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty," Ridley, the chairman of Augusta National's Competition Committee, said in a statement. "The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round."

Woods took to Twitter just before noon EDT Saturday to comment:

"At hole #15, I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules. I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules," Woods said in a series of posts on the social-media website. "I didn’t know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard. Subsequently, I met with the Masters Committee Saturday morning.. and was advised they had reviewed the incident prior to the completion of my round. Their initial determination... was that there was no violation, but they had additional concerns based on my post-round interview. After discussing the situation... ...with them this morning, I was assessed a two-shot penalty. I understand and accept the penalty and respect the Committees’ decision."

It wasn't until after Friday's round – when Woods said in an interview that he dropped his ball two yards behind the spot from where he had hit his previous shot – that questions were raised about the drop.

After his third shot hit off the flagstick and into the water, Woods walked up to the drop area and then walked back to where he hit his previous shot before taking a drop and proceeding to make bogey.

Because the hazard is deemed a water hazard (yellow lines) and not a lateral water hazard (red lines), Woods was provided with three options: drop closest to the place he played the previous ball under Rule 20-5 of the Rules of Golf, use the designated drop area or take the point of where the ball crossed the water hazard and drop from there or as far back as he would like.

Woods choose to play from the previous spot, which would require him to drop as close to the previous spot as possible.

When Woods finished his round with a 1-under 71 he met with the media to discuss what happened at the 15th hole.

“I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, its really grainy there. And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop,” Woods said, recalling his actions after his third shot. “So I went back to where I played it from, but I went 2 yards further back and I took, tried to take 2 yards off the shot of what I felt I hit.”

The question: Is the 2 yards as Woods maintained in his interview after his round close enough to the previous spot under Rule 20-5?

If you take Woods literally, 2 yards is 72 inches, which is more than the one club length. If the drafters of the rules wanted to provide for a club-length drop they would have indicated so in the rules.

If Woods breached Rule 20-5 by not taking the proper drop he would have been assessed a two-shot penalty, but that would have needed to be assessed before he signed his scorecard. If he signed a wrong scorecard then under Rule 6-b, Woods would be disqualified.

One possible way to save Woods was Decision 33-7/4.5, which explained the option that the committee used.

Decision 33-7/4.5 Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified

Q. A competitor returns his score card. It later transpires that the score for one hole is lower than actually taken due to his failure to include a penalty stroke(s) which he did not know he had incurred. The error is discovered before the competition has closed.

Would the Committee be justified, under Rule 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?

A. Generally, the disqualification prescribed by Rule 6-6d must not be waived or modified.

However, if the committee is satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules, it would be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving the disqualification penalty prescribed by Rule 6-6d. The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred.

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