Analysis: Tiger drop controversy: a shabby Masters compromise

Tiger Woods of the U.S. reacts to his tee shot on the sixth hole during third round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 13, 2013.
Tiger Woods of the U.S. reacts to his tee shot on the sixth hole during third round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 13, 2013.

Neither Tiger Woods nor Masters officials emerged with much credit after a messy resolution to the controversial “penalty drop” affair that sparked widespread debate in the golfing world.

World number one Woods, overwhelming favorite to win a fifth green jacket at Augusta National this week, was spared the ignominy of disqualification when the rules committee decided to exercise leniency over his infringement in the second round.

Instead of sending the 14-times champion packing for taking an illegal drop at the par-five 15th after his third shot on Friday had ended up in water, they opted to slap him with a two-stroke penalty.

Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, defended the decision, saying that Woods had been cleared of any wrong-doing after a video review before the American had completed his round.

However, Woods then muddied the waters during his post-round interview when he described in detail how he had gone “two yards further back” for his drop in order to create a better shot.

His admission forced Ridley and company to summon the world number one to Augusta National on Saturday morning to explain his thinking but, at that stage, a disqualification was no longer on the cards.

“We had made a decision before he finished his round … and I think he’s entitled to be protected by 33-7,” Ridley said, referring to rule that allows a player to stay in a tournament if an infringement is based on television evidence.

“That’s our decision, and others agree with us.”

However, there are two big problems here.

First, Woods clearly violated Rule 26-1, which requires a player to drop the ball “as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played”, and in most instances that would lead to a DQ.

Several leading players and angered fans populated Twitter-verse on Saturday saying that Woods should have been ousted from the tournament and that his status as the game’s top draw had almost certainly saved him.

PGA Tour player Kyle Thompson tweeted: “I guess Tiger is BIGGER than golf. Any other person in the world gets DQ’d. Gotta keep those TV ratings going right?”

There were many calls for Woods to follow the honorable route by falling on his sword and pulling out of the Masters, a move that would have earned him widespread respect in golf as well as a much-needed PR boost.

REPUTATION BUILDING

Though comfortably the greatest player of his generation, Woods has never been a warm figure adored by the fans and is still rebuilding a reputation battered by the revelations of his sordid extra-marital affairs just over three years ago.

Had Woods decided to withdraw from one of the game’s biggest events following his unfortunate brush with the rules, he would have earned high praise for living up to golf’s valued reputation for honesty and sportsmanship.

Six-times major champion Nick Faldo told Golf Channel: “Our rules are black and white: That is a breach of the rules. Simple as that. He has to sit down quietly and think about this – the mark this will leave on his career, his legacy.”

Former world number one David Duval, who has established a reputation for carefully considered opinions since opening a Twitter account, tweeted: “Was there intent to break the rule is the question? I think he should WD. He took a drop to gain an advantage.”

There have been several instances over the years of players penalizing, or even disqualifying, themselves.

American Jeff Sluman was two strokes off the lead after the second round of the 1996 Bay Hill Invitational when he withdrew following confusion over what he initially thought was a legal drop at the 17th hole after hitting his ball into water.

The following day, he went out on a cart with a rules official to the same spot and, when neither man could be sure of the legality, Sluman immediately disqualified himself from the tournament.

Just as Woods erred with his drop, an apparently innocent mistake as he mixed up the rule for shot-and-distance relief with line-of-sight relief, so too Masters officials blundered by not speaking to the world number one on Friday.

“There’s not a day that goes by that there are not some things I wish I would have done differently,” Ridley replied when asked if he should have spoken to Woods before his committee made its initial decision during the second round.

However, Ridley refuted any suggestion that Woods could have received preferential treatment, saying: “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 again, it is the right ruling under these circumstances.”

It most certainly did not help that the Masters is the only one of the four majors that does not assign rules officials to every group. Rules officials sit on carts at various points around the course and advise players only when summoned.

Reprieved by Rule 33-7, which only came into effect two years ago, Woods survives and remains in contention at the 77th Masters.

Should he go on to win his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open, however, for many that triumph will be tainted and highlighted with an asterisk.

(Editing by Gene Cherry)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Going Out

5 things to do in NYC this weekend…

FILM Lebowski Fest Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m. Various locations, Manhattan $20-$30, www.lebowskifest.com The Dude abides — for 48 hours to celebrate the 1998 Coen brothers classic.…

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…