Tiger Woods assessed 2-stroke penalty for drop in 2nd round of the Masters, not disqualified
Matt Slocum, Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods dropped two strokes at the Masters before he even hit a shot Saturday. At least he's still in the tournament.
Woods got a reprieve at the Masters when he was given a two-shot penalty for a bad drop but avoided a more serious sanction — disqualification.
"I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules," Woods said on Twitter. "I understand and accept the penalty and respect the committee's decision."
Still, the ruling stirred up plenty of debate on social media, with some fellow golfers claiming Woods got special treatment — especially coming one day after 14-year-old Guan Tianlang was penalized a stroke for slow play, which nearly caused him to miss the cut.
"I think (Woods) should WD (withdraw). He took a drop to gain an advantage," David Duval, once Woods' top rival, wrote on Twitter.
"I guess Tiger is BIGGER than golf. Any other person in the world gets DQ'd. Gotta keep those TV ratings going right?" tweeted Kyle Thompson, who plays on a lower-level tour.
Hunter Mahan, who missed the Masters cut, praised the decision.
"I like this ruling because he took an illegal drop but no official brought it to his attention," Mahan tweeted.
Beyond the dispute, the penalty made it harder for Woods to win his fifth green jacket. Instead of starting Saturday's third round three strokes off the lead, he faced a five-shot deficit.
Jason Day was the leader at 6-under 138, one stroke ahead of Fred Couples and Marc Leishman. Seventeen players were within four strokes of the lead on what already figured to be a wild weekend, even before the stunning decision over Woods' drop during the second round at the par-5 15th hole.
The problem began after Woods' third shot hit the flag stick and ricocheted back into the water. He took his penalty drop two yards behind where he hit the original shot, which was a rules violation.
After a call from a television viewer, Augusta National reviewed the drop before Woods signed his card and found nothing wrong. Woods later said he was trying to drop it behind the original spot. His interview prompted the club to review it again and Woods was given a two-shot penalty. That put him at 1-over 73 instead of 71 for a 143 total.
Signing an incorrect scorecard generally results in disqualification, but Woods was saved by a new rule — announced at the Masters two years ago — that allows a player to stay in the tournament if a rules dispute was based on television evidence.
Fred Ridley, chairman of the competition committees, said there was never any talk of booting Woods from the tournament because the club had initially cleared him of wrongdoing before he signed his card. Essentially, Augusta National took the blame.
Ridley also disputed any notion that the ruling would have been different for a lesser player.
"I can't really control what the perception might or might not be," Ridley said. "All I can say is that unequivocally this tournament is about integrity. Our founder, Bobby Jones, was about integrity, and if this had been John Smith from wherever, he would have gotten the same ruling because it is the right ruling under these circumstances."
The decision grabbed more attention than any shot so far at this Masters. Woods not only is the No. 1 player and golf's biggest star, he had won two straight tournaments coming into the Masters. He was the overwhelming favorite to win, ending a five-year drought in the majors, and capture the green jacket for the first time since 2005. With 14 major titles, he trails only Jack Nicklaus with 18.
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