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).

59 COMMENTS

  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.

  5. Kind of late to be jumping into the Tiger Wood’s controversy but …… When Tiger signed his score card, wasn’t it an incorrect score card? Does the fact that he did not asses himself a penalty mean that his score was correct on the card? This is where I am confused.

    • At the time Tiger signed the scorecard NO. No one who was at the event said anything about it before he signed his card. When a rules official (and its their job) thinks there’s a rule infraction he will in fact talk to the player ie…. just like they talked to the 14 year old Tianlang Guan after they clocked him for slow play. When they it got brought up about Tiger possibly braking a rule they said he didn’t that it looked like the drop was proper. No one really knows how far he actually dropped the ball until an interview with tiger where he stated it was 2 yards longer shot. well when I watched him drop and seen the replay it didn’t look 2 yards but that what he said he did. The rule as been explained over and over but the Tiger haters or so called PGA pro’s who say the older pro’s like JACK would have just DQ themselves. Tiger has been cheating for years, thats why he has the wins he has…. pure cheater.

  6. Trying to argue that a pro should know all the rules is like saying that a business owner should be familiar with the legion of laws and practices regarding taxes, statues, etc. I’m never going to buy that one.

    Sorry, but it’s easy to “remember” everything at home watching on TV.

  7. If the rules of golf intended for someone to be DQ’d for failing to execute a proper drop, they would not have the rule imposing a strict 2-stroke penalty! If Tiger intentionally violated the rule (i.e., cheated), there would be grounds to DQ him. The evidence does not suggest this as he voluntarily explained the improper drop. As a result, the evidence suggests that he had no knowledge of the error until after he signed his card. While this would have resulted in immediate DQ in the past, that has changed with the new rule. The conspiracy theorists are nuts if they believe this rule was created for Tiger, as will be shown in time as others reap the benefit of the new rule.

  8. Grant has quoted the rules correctly, but some others in this discussion have not. The rules do NOT state that a player is to “drop” his ball as near as possible to where the previous stroke was made. He is to “play” his ball as nearly as possible from where the previous stroke was made.

    If a player was allowed to place his ball, obviously he could place it in the exact spot where the prior stroke was made (in this case, the divot left behind). But you can’t place – you are required to drop the ball.

    I believe Tiger was on a down slope, and so it would make sense to me that a player would drop his ball some distance behind where the original stroke was made, so that if it rolled towards the hole, it has a chance of not rolling nearer the hole then where prior stroke was made (which would require a re-drop).

    In addition, the ball cannot roll more then 2 club lengths (2 yards?) from where it first hits the ground. So it makes sense to me that dropping 2 club lengths behind, when on a downslope, is your best chance to have your first drop be a legal drop and have the ball in play without having to re-drop.

    I think Tiger knows the rules, and the above is what was going through his mind when dropping. True, he may have been hoping the ball did not roll, or did not roll much, so he could play from a slightly further distance then previous. And sharing that thought process was his downfall that caused the penalty.

    It almost seems like he should have tried to drop his ball into his divot, and if he missed the divot, or if the ball rolled or bounced out of the divot, then re-drop. If it happens again, then place the ball in the divot.

    That is the only way to indisputably play your stroke from as near as possible to where prior stroke was played.

    Anything else is subjective.

  9. No,No,NoThe rules committtee knew exactly what happened. They tried to ignore it until ESPN told them about the interview. Then they had no choice. Tiger knew the rules and he thinks he is above them. He knows they all want him there to bring in the ratings but once there was no way out they had to work something out. All the other golfers and critics who called for Tiger to withdraw knows what was going on. Anyway you are right about one thing you can’t blame Tiger because the media has made him believe that he is above everyone and should not have to account for his actions on or off the golf course.

    • Larry I am inclined to agree with you. I think that is exactly what happened. This isnt the first tine he has taken a funny drop. As someone who has played professionally I can tell you it does not sit well with other professionals when stuff like this happens, the worst thing you can have as a professional is to have a cloud of “gray” attached to your name.

  10. This really changes everything. I don’t like how they can go back and change what was approved and signed for in the name of making it right. To me there were many opportunities to make it right, but that time had passed.

  11. Rule requires you drop at spot as near as possible to prior spot. He knew he didn’t do that when he admitted he took it back two yards to a more favorable spot to hit his next shot. Rule does not provide you can take it as far back as you want. Committee or no committee it is a game of honor and if the committee didn’t dq him he had the moral obligation to withdraw. Aside from having a rules official with each group they should probably let players have their lawyers with them.

  12. Yet again, people making comments without the skill most kindergarten children posess.

    READ THE ARTICLE

    Tiger was told, by the rules committee, that his drop was legal.

    Read it.

    The rules committee changed its mind.

    Read it.

    They assessed him a penalty as described in the rules and proceeded to follow the rules even farther by not DQ’ing him but waiving the DQ because… Now get ready… Here it comes… The reading part…

    They told him his drop was correct. They changed their mind. They waived the DQ.

    READ before you comment. You look stupid when you speak from a point of emotion, with some sort of weird, obsessive dislike of someone you’ve never met or interacted with, rather than speaking from a point of educated information and the benefit of all the information available. And… Here’s the best part..

    Augusta… The Masters… It’s an invitational. They make the rules. It’s their Tournament… They can say everyone uses pink balls and croquet mallets for putters… The PGA Tour rules… The USGA.. The R&A.. All of their rules…ALL OF THEM… Are irrelevant. Augusta makes em…breaks em…enforces em… All of you crying foul because of the rules are speaking from a point of ignorance. The rules are what AGNC says they are… They spoke. SU.

  13. For the signing the incorrect scorecard argument: Tiger didn’t knowingly sign a wrong scorecard, and when it was signed, the rules committee had determined it was the right scorecard. So Tiger obviously didn’t knowingly sign a wrong card. After the interview it was determined he broke the rule, he admitted he did this after the rule was further explained to him, and he was assessed the 2 stroke penalty, as the new rule states. Everything was followed by the book. Any other player would get the same treatment. This wouldn’t happen to any other player tho, because every single shot of Tiger’s is on TV therefore he probably follows the rules by the book more than any other golfer out there because he was more closely watched.

  14. Nicely put Grant! Who on here really believes he should have been DQ’ed? He obviously didn’t know the rule, or at least the full rule, but within 5 feet is close enough anyways. And he hit the pin on the shot he was retaking anyways. Y’all that think he should have been DQ’ed are haters. Committee made the mistake, not Tiger. If anything Tiger should be commended for tattling on himself and taking the 2 stroke penalty. If he doesn’t say anything, all this is mute. 2 stroke penalty was more than fair. Hope he can make a nice run tomorrow. And anybody would get this treatment, but I don’t think any other golfer has enough haters who look up a rule such as this in the rule book and takes the time to call it in. LOL get a life. Probably one of you haters on here hating on Grant.

  15. I find it interesting that ALL of this hand-wringing about who-knew-what-when began LONG AFTER the fact. None of his playing partners or caddie said, “Hey, wait a minute” either as he dropped or after the shot. None of the announcers calling the play-by-play at the time recognized a problem. None of the folks watching with me noticed it. And most important, none of the officials, until notified by fans watching TV (something I’m not fond of, by the way.) So now all of a sudden everyone is an expert on what happened and what Tiger should do or should have done. If he was trying to cheat, I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough not to yap to the press about how he tried to illegally gain an advantage. I see it as an honest mistake that in retrospect makes US ALL look a little foolish, most of all Mr. Woods, but one that has been ruled on and…play on, Tiger.

  16. This ruling is comical….Anyone defending not DQing tiger is either 1)a huge fan of tiger (so I understand) 2)doesn’t believe in DQs for
    sometimes lame golf rules which can be understandable, see Dustin Johnson at the PGA or 3)can’t