AUGUSTA, Ga. — Did Tiger Woods get a break from the Masters on Saturday because he’s Tiger Woods?
No, said Masters competition chairman Fred Ridley after Woods was penalized two strokes – rather than being disqualified – for an illegal drop during Friday’s second round. The penalty moved Woods from three strokes behind second-round leader Jason Day to five strokes back and from a tie for seventh to a tie for 19th entering Saturday’s third round.
“If this had been John Smith from wherever, he would have gotten the same ruling,” said Ridley.
At issue was a drop that Woods took on the par-5 15th hole after his third shot had hit the flag stick and bounced back into a small lake that fronts the green.
Under golf rule 26-1, Woods had three choices: to play from a designated drop area; drop the ball, keeping the point where it last crossed the margin of the water between the hole and the spot on which the ball would be dropped; or drop the ball “as nearly as possible” from where it was played.
Woods chose the final option, dropping the ball 2 yards from the original spot. Was that “as nearly as possible?”
He ended up bogeying the hole.
The Masters rules committee reviewed Woods’ drop while he was playing the 18th hole after a television viewer alerted officials he might not have been as near as possible to the original spot.
At first, the committee ruled that Woods did nothing wrong.
But after Woods admitted he dropped the ball 2 yards away in a post-round interview, the committee re-evaluated. Ridley said the decision to penalize Woods two strokes was made Saturday morning after committee members spoke with Woods.
Ridley said the two-shot penalty was for playing from the wrong place (rule 20-7). He added that Woods was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard because the committee initially ruled Woods had done nothing wrong while he was still playing. Woods was actually protected from disqualification by rule 33-7, which states:
“A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the committee considers such action warranted.”
And that’s what would have happened with any player in those same circumstances, said Ridley.
“I can’t control what the perception might or might not be,” he said. “All I know is that unequivocally this tournament is about integrity. Our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity. It is the right ruling under the circumstances.”
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