Irony is working overtime this Masters weekend. Tianlang Guan was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play and the social media world exploded with cries of jingoism and favoritism.
Fortunately for Guan, he took the high road and indicated that he understood and would accept the penalty without complaint. It helped that he made the cut by one slim stroke. The Guan incident, since he is quite distant from the leaders, will drip into the background, thanks to another rules incident involving a competitor of a much higher profile.
Tiger Woods clanked his third shot on the 15th hole off the flagstick and into the pond fronting the green in Round 2. He then appeared to retreat to the point of the third stroke, drop a ball and play on, making bogey.
During the post-round press conference, rule 33-5 came into play, because Woods told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that he intentionally had dropped his ball two yards behind the point of his third shot. That drop should have resulted in a penalty that Woods did not account for in his score, which means he signed an incorrect scorecard that should have disqualified him from the tournament.
Instead of disqualification, the Masters competition committee invoked a revision to rule 33-7, which gave Woods a two-shot penalty instead. This decision has not sat well with golf pundits and aficionados, who wondered why the world’s No. 1-ranked player would get off so easily.
Tiger has teed it up in Round 3 of the Masters, but here are five reasons why he is making a huge mistake.
No. 1: His reputation is at stake
Tiger’s personal difficulties sullied his on-course reputation and he has spent the last several years rebuilding his golf game. Had he disqualified himself in the spirit of personal integrity and karma, he would taken great strides to improve his reputation with sponsors and fans.
No. 2: Eliminate a perception of favoritism
Dustin Johnson (2010 PGA Championship) and Tianlang Guan (2013 Masters), among others, were assessed controversial penalties in major championships. They accepted the rulings and moved on.
Despite the fact that Tiger is adhering to the letter of the law and accepting the ruling as handed down by the Master Tournament Committee, the integrity of the game and its tournaments is exposed for debate and attack to the world. Is some sort of collusion at play to keep the most compelling figure in golf on golf’s most recognizable stage? We can’t be sure, but withdrawing would eliminate all shred of doubt.
No. 3: It’s tainted
If Tiger were to win the Masters this week, it would be tainted — plain and simple. Tiger should have known where to drop. No matter what he does over the next 36 holes, people will contrast this moment with Bobby Jones’ famous, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank” episode when he called a one-stroke penalty on himself for a moving ball that no one but he saw move.
No. 4: Jack Nicklaus’ record
Tiger’s motivation and impetus for greatness has always been Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record. Tiger won six amateur USGA championships (way more than Nicklaus) and now holds 14 professional major titles, second only to Nicklaus’ 18.
Imagine this scenario: Tiger storms back from five shots down to win the 2013 Masters, which serves as a springboard to him eclipsing the 18 titles for most professional major championship victories in a career . . . but he only eclipses the victory tally by one? Will anyone recognize him as the greatest major champion of all time?
No. 5: It’s nothing personal
Debatable? Yes. Revocable? No. Just as Tiger’s disqualification should not be. Tiger broke a transparent rule, one with no room for interpretation. Professional golfers are disqualified from events on a regular basis on the PGA Tour. Even the world’s No. 1 golfer can make a mistake, and like every other professional, he should be held accountable. It’s nothing personal.
Click here to read a different take by GolfWRX Featured Writer Grant Shafranski — “Blame The Rules Committee, Not Tiger.”