When Tiger Woods woke up Saturday morning and checked his cellular telephone at about 7:30, he heard a message from his longtime agent, Mark Steinberg, that said, “Call me when you get up.”
It was then that Woods learned of the delayed Masters controversy surrounding his improper drop on the 15th hole the day before. When Steinberg informed Woods of the situation, the four-time Masters champion called Augusta National and then drove to the club to meet with officials at about 8 a.m.
“He came in to explain to them what happened,” Steinberg said. “Whatever decision that was rendered, he was going to accept it. I can’t say he was pleased . . . but he has a lot of respect for the rules.”
Eventually, the committee determined Woods violated Rule 26-1 (Water Hazards) and assessed the world No. 1 a two-stroke penalty. Disqualification was waived under Rule 33-7 (Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion) because the committee had reviewed the drop and cleared Woods before he finished his second round. Competition committee chairman Fred Ridley said he thought it was unnecessary to talk with Woods before he signed his card because rules officials saw no violation.
The tournament, though, decided the case needed further attention after Woods said in a post-round interview that he had dropped farther away from where he had played his third shot. “He in effect called it (penalty) on himself,” Steinberg said.
Ridley said he reviewed the video again back at the club late Friday night – before getting in touch with Steinberg – and again with a “candid” Woods on Saturday morning. Ridley said Woods was “entitled to be protected” under 33-7 because the committee changed its mind. He said the U.S. Golf Association, R&A, PGA Tour and PGA European Tour fully supported the Masters’ decision to give Woods a two-stroke penalty.
“If this had been John Smith from nowhere, he would have gotten the same ruling,” Ridley said.
Steinberg was mindful that some observers, including past major champions, suggested Woods should have been disqualified or withdrawn on his own.
“Everybody is entitled to his opinion, but Tiger is abiding by the Rules of Golf,” Steinberg said. “It wasn’t his intention (to drop improperly). If this is willful, it’s a different situation.”
Steinberg spoke under the big tree by the clubhouse a couple of hours before Woods teed off in the third round Saturday afternoon. The penalty meant that Woods shot 73 Friday instead of 71 and stood five strokes off the lead instead of three.
The agent, though, said Woods wasn’t emotional about the situation and was handling it matter-of-factly.
“Tiger has an amazing ability to compartmentalize and block things out,” Steinberg said. “He’s focused, and he’s still in the middle of the golf tournament.”
He is in the golf tournament in large part because a television viewer called a Masters rules official about the improper drop soon after it happened. Had that violation been called into question after Woods turned in his card, he would have been disqualified for signing for a lower score.
In that regard, Woods is indebted to that prompt viewer.