Woods receives two-stroke penalty

3:16 PM, Apr 13, 2013   |    comments
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Tiger Woods practices before the start of the Masters.

Augusta National has ruled on the Tiger Woods ball drop from late Friday and, instead of disqualification, he is being assessed a two-stroke penalty based on USGA rule 33-7.

There was a lot of buzz Friday night and Saturday morning that Woods might be disqualified for incorrectly signing his scorecard based on an erroneous ball drop on hole No. 15 after hitting his ball in the water.

However, the drop was given a two-stroke penalty instead. Tiger began Saturday's play five strokes behind leader Jason Day.

A release on Saturday from Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, said the following:

In preperation for his fifth shot, the player dropped his ball in close proximity to where he had played his third shot in apparent conformance with Rule 26. After being prompted by a television viewer, the Rules Committee reviewed a video of the shot while [Woods] was playing the 18th hole. At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the Rules.

After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played further from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.

The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had voilated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round.

Rule 33-7 states:

A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.

That's what happened here. Someone watching the tournament apparently called it in, but officials then said Woods was in the clear before his round was over on Friday.

After that, in an interview, Woods incriminated himself by stating the following in his post-round interview:

"So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards farther back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."

So the rules committee had to look at the issue again. But because they had already said he was correct in his play, it seems to me that, based on Rule 33-7/4.5 (more on that here), they didn't feel it was right to disqualify him.

The rule in question is USGA Rule 26-1, which states:

It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that a ball struck toward a water hazard, but not found, is in the hazard, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. 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 (see Rule 20-5); or

b. 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;

Woods did neither. His ball entered the water to the far left of where Woods is standing in the photo below, so "b" doesn't apply because he didn't "keep the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly behind the hole and his drop."

 

But "a" doesn't apply either, because he wasn't "playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played." He was clearly a couple yards back from the original spot (see divot ahead of his ball in the photo above).

Again, Woods actually called himself out in his post-round press conference on Friday:

"So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards farther back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."

"Two yards farther back" is hardly "as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played."

The outrage via social media that Woods wasn't disqualified is palpable, but Graeme McDowell makes a good point:

This is a ruling that will be talked about for a long time, but the reality is that Woods will still tee off at 1:45 p.m. ET Saturday just five strokes back of Day.