Moving Day at Augusta began with a bang on Saturday as news broke about Tiger Woods being assessed a two-shot penalty for an incorrect drop on No. 15 Friday after his ball struck the flagstick and spun backward into the water.

The unfortunate shot unleashed an explosion of opinion and controversy that resulted in the Masters rules committee making the correct decision not to disqualify Tiger from competition.

Keep in mind that it does not come down to whether Tiger broke a rule or not — he certainly did, and he has admitted it. It is simply the series of events and decisions made by the committee that would have made it unfair to Tiger for him to be disqualified.

So let’s start at the beginning:

Being a water hazard (not lateral) Tiger had four options he could exercise under Rule 26-1:

  1. Play the ball as it lies, which was not possible because it was submerged in water.
  2. Take a one-shot penalty and drop his ball in the drop zone at the left side of the fairway toward the grandstand.
  3. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping 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.
  4. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.

Tiger attempted to exercise the fourth option and drop where he hit the prior shot from. At the time, it seemed as though Tiger had proceeded correctly. Between the time that he dropped his ball and the end of his round, the Masters rules committee received a call from a viewer prompting it to reexamine how Tiger proceeded at No. 15. At that time, the committee ruled that Tiger had proceeded correctly, and no penalty was issued.

Many are wondering where the rules official was during all of this. Surely the world’s No. 1 player must have an official with him at all times, right? Yes, pretty much. However, it is the responsibility of the player to call the official in to assist with procedural questions. Rules officials are essential silent observers unless called upon for a ruling, or they can prevent a rules infraction.

So why didn’t the official step in this time?

Since we never saw the official with Tiger short of the pond on No. 15, we can’t be sure. But I have to believe he was up near the green or drop area. From the perspective of the official some 85-plus yards away, those two yards back that Tiger dropped his ball had to look very near to the original spot where he hit from. Therefore there was no reason for him to step in.

In an interview after his round, Tiger stated that he purposely dropped his ball about two yards behind where he hit his original ball from, not knowing he had broken a Rule 26-1. Upon seeing the interview, the committee believed that the ruling warranted further discussion, and they asked Tiger to meet Saturday morning. It was during this meeting that it was deemed that Tiger had not proceeded correctly, and had played his ball from a wrong location.

Playing a ball from an incorrect location in stroke play competition is a two-stroke penalty. However, in Tiger’s case he had already signed his scorecard for a 71. Signing for an incorrect score in stroke play competition will usually result in a disqualification. So why was Tiger not disqualified?

Under Rule 33-7, “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.” To some, this rule might make it seem like the committee made an exception in Tiger’s case in order to keep the most exciting player in golf in the field for the weekend.

It did not.

Before Tiger finished his round on Friday, the committee had already reviewed what happened on No. 15 and ruled no penalty. Since the committee initially ruled that there was not penalty and thus facilitated the player into signing for an incorrect score, they enacted Rule 33-7 and waived the penalty of disqualification.

Yes, it is the player’s responsibility to know and follow the rules as best he can. However, it would not have been fair to Tiger for the committee to disqualify him from competition.

It was the committee who ruled initially that there should not be a penalty issued. It was the committee who didn’t say anything before Tiger signed for his 71. And it was the committee who reversed its decision and assessed a penalty.

Tiger simply did exactly what the committee instructed him to do. He proceeded under the rules to the best of his knowledge, did not intentionally breach Rule 26-1, and wasn’t told of a possible infraction before he signed his card because the committee had already decided that no penalty was warranted at the time

I fully expect him to continue his exceptional play and make a run at the green jacket. And if Tiger goes on to win The Masters, it will go down as possibly the greatest win of his career.

Click here to read five reasons why Tiger should have withdraw from the Masters this weekend.


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Grant Shafranski is the Program Director for the First Tee of Minneapolis and Head Teaching Professional at Hiawatha Golf Club in Minneapolis, MN. He is a Level 2 PGA Apprentice following a successful amateur career where he played collegiately at Division III University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN).


  1. this is wrong. the committee does not nor has to remind players of thier penalties for breaching a rule or of any shot resulting in a penalty stroke prior to handing in thier cards. That is not thier job. Had they noted from the begining that Tigers drop was illegal they do not have to tell him prior to card signing. He simply would have been disqualified for handing in the wrong card. And wether or not Tiger knew the rule or not also does not matter. It is is his 100% resonsibility to know the rules and to play by them. This is not the same as what happened to P. Harrington becaues he did not know his ball moved but he still played by the rules. There is a big difference. Tiger (ignorant or not of the rule) did not play by the rules. They cannot dismiss the disqualification if they are going to penalize him for the play. They must do both or do nothing at all and say we missed it an its too late, its over. They should not acknowledge the penalty without acknowledging the wrong card. This notion that they missed it at first is not an excuse to excuse the disqualificatiopn because they do not have to discuss it with tiger prior to card signing anyway. That is not what they do. If a player hit a ball into water and hands in a card without penalty stroke he is disqualified. Its the same thing. They do not remind or tell players prior to signing who lost a ball in the woods or hit into water or whatever that they must add those strokes. They simply check the card against such and if it is wrong they are disqualified. They cant simply dismiss one and not the other because they go hand in hand. And cant dismiss it simply because they missed it. they should iether accpet it all and say they screwed up and its too late or penalize for both. Thats the only two ways which they should handle it. As said, totaly different from Harrington because he didnt know the ball moved or if a player double hits and doesnt know it. Harrington or other players in such situation still played by the rules. Tiger did not play by the rules and not knowing the rules is never an escuse. Whats to stop players from now doing things and pleating they didnt know the rule? they are using the right to waive for the wrong reason and unfairly applying it. They should have said. he handed in his card, we accepted his card and we screwed up so its over thats the breaks. But to acknowledge the penalty later on and also assess it as such they must also assess the disqualification. They cannot use the excuse they missed it for one penalty and not the other. They iether missed both which they did and decide to penalize for both or they should have done nothingdo nothing. There is no such thing to warrant an inbetween. It did not have to be discussed with tiger at all had they cought it earlier so thier notion that thats thier fault does not fly. If thats the case then penalize him for nothing. But shoulodnt do one without the other.

  2. Tiger and the Masters lost their integrity. There is no way they DQ Tiger because they lose their tv ratings. Any other player in field would have have been DQ. And dont tell me Tiger doesnt know the rules. He would cheat to win another major and he just proved it and the Masters proved they are willing to over look the rules and give preferential treatment to Tiger Woods.

    • Lol. If he was cheating on purpose, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to admit it later. Especially after the rules committee watched the video and said nothing was wrong with the drop. If he actually was a cheater, he would have gone forward without saying anything and not get punished at all.

  3. so, the third option for a drop from this type of hazard is:

    3.Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping 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.

    Tiger’s drop was behind the hazard, the poing at which the ball crossed the hazard was between the hole and his drop point, and he droped the ball farther back from the original shot. The rules state that there is NO distant limit to how far back you can play your drop. So if anything I think Tiger is guilty of confusion between the 3rd and 4th option allowed by the rules.

  4. This one falls on the Rules Committee. After the caller notified them of the potential infraction, they should have not only reviewed the tape themselves but also notified Tiger in the scorer’s tent before he signed his card. Had they done this, Tiger would have admitted his mistake, signed for the correct score and all of this would be a non-issue.