I was almost as rattled as the flagstick yesterday when I watched Tiger Woods’s shot on #15 in the 2nd round of the Masters Tournament. From around 85 yards out on the right side of the fairway Tiger hit his third shot which then bounced off the flagstick and went in the water short left of the green. The ball crossed the hazard line left-front, but strangely Tiger decided to drop from where he hit the previous shot. He hit a great 5th shot and made a short bogey putt. Later in the post round interview Woods told the press he moved to a better yardage two yards further back for the 5th shot. Later, the social networks blew up and the strangeness became clear. It was an illegal drop. Tiger’s options were to play from the SAME spot, the drop circle, or two clubs no nearer the hole from where the shot last crossed the margin of the hazard.
Tiger made an illegal drop, then signed an incorrect scorecard because the card did not reflect the penalty he should have been assessed for the drop. The golf rules state that signing an incorrect scorecard means the player is disqualified.
I strongly believed that the Masters Committee should have disqualified Tiger as many others did. Then the Committee released the statement (below) stating that they’d already reviewed it before Tiger’s round was completed and determined, albeit incorrectly, that Tiger did not drop illegally. Because they made a conclusion before his round was completed, they assessed him a 2-stroke penalty rather than disqualifying him.
Tiger is a very polarizing figure in golf. Fans love him or hate him. No doubt this ruling will fuel the discussion for Tiger haters and lovers alike. And there’s still the question as to whether Woods will withdraw before his afternoon tee time today. At the end of play yesterday Tiger was T7, three behind leader Jason Day. Now Tiger is T17 and five shots back.
What if Tiger were to win? Boy would that spark some discussion eh? Extrapolate that farther and say Tiger won this week and eventually broke Jack Nicklaus’s major record. Hmmm.
The problem is that while the reviewed the drop and made a conclusion, they did so without complete information. Additionally, this review was done without discussion with the player.
Tiger signed the card without the penalty and turned in. It was the player’s responsibility to get a ruling, or correctly apply the rules prior to signing the card.
The rule 33.7/4.5 is only intended to apply to exceptional cases where the player could not know or reasonably discovered. The legality of his drop does not fit this description.
The rule is not intended to absolve a player from their lack of knowledge or application of the rules. It was intended to absolve them from factual information related to the play that would be impossible to discern.