Who Dropped The Ball?

Tiger Woods was given a two-stroke penalty a day after his illegal drop on the 15th hole at Augusta. (USA TODAY Sports)

Tiger Woods was given a two-stroke penalty a day after his illegal drop on the 15th hole at Augusta. (USA TODAY Sports)

Did Tiger Woods just drop the ball? On his chances at the Masters, that is. And his reputation for fair play. We know about the other drop, the illegal one that caused subsequent droppings: jaws, rule book, the hammer and who knows, maybe even pigeons.

Woods put himself in a tough spot by refusing to disqualify himself, a course of action that’s been debated. He put himself in an even tougher spot at the start of the third round, when he usually makes a charge toward the top of the leaderboard. If he wins the tournament, it would rank as his best rally, because he began Saturday five shots off the lead instead of three, and definitely the most controversial.

It’s all a result of a weird sequence of events on Friday and early Saturday and only added to the bad luck Woods has endured at Augusta National. He had a putt bounce off a sprinkler head, then another shot caught the pin at 15 and ricocheted into the water, and now this, a two-stroke penalty assessed only after Tiger unknowingly blew the whistle on himself.

A TV viewer called the tournament (question: is there a Masters hotline or something?) to alert officials about a possible violation when Tiger played his fifth shot from the wrong place on that 15th hole, after a drop. The tournament didn’t sense any violation at the time — big mistake there — but when Tiger “confessed” on TV after his round, a re-review was necessary.

“I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I … tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit,” he said.

Suddenly, the gentlemanly golf world, where players police themselves, began spinning out of control. The rule states the ball should be dropped “as nearly as possible” to the spot where it was last played. In any event, tournament officials chalked it up to a misunderstanding on Tiger’s end. Officials refused to disqualify Tiger from the tournament after he signed the incorrect scorecard because he wasn’t aware or told he made an illegal drop before he signed it.

And so, what does this all mean?

Well, higher ratings for the third round, most likely. Everything else is on hold until we know how Woods finishes the tournament. Be prepared, because hell could break loose.

Butch Harmon, his former swing coach, tweeted: “For me the penalty has been given get on with it. If he doesn’t win it will be water all under the bridge, if he wins it will never go away.”

Brandel Chamblee of the Golf Channel: “The onus is on Tiger Woods to step forward for this tournament, for his career and disqualify himself.”

Of course, those calling for Tiger’s departure should understand this: If Tiger knowingly cheated when he signed the wrong scorecard, why would he admit to it before 30 million people? Doesn’t make sense. Also, he wasn’t told about the first review before he signed his scorecard. That responsibility is on tournament officials. Either they blew it (likely scenario) or they kept it under wraps so not to lose the main attraction (conspiracy theorists’ scenario). Under that situation, it’s not fair to ask him to withdraw.

Remember, the rules committee, after being alerted by a TV viewer, originally judged Tiger’s drop as legit. Tiger didn’t screw up as much as the committee did.

Suddenly, the most watched tournament in the world just got more interesting. In the end, then, the Masters wins again.

6 thoughts on “Who Dropped The Ball?

  1. Does this story have a point besides the author being amoral? Tiger did something wrong, and the mistake wasn’t caught right away. Big deal. It’s still wrong. Where did the author learn that cheating is fine if it isn’t discovered? Tiger knows better. He didn’t mean to do it, but he surely didn’t hide behind the BS reasoning of the author. Hooray for Tiger. Fire the author.

    • How about we get “Big Steve” fired from his job instead? Crime: posting inane comments on blogs asking for the author to be fired.

  2. the committee didn’t blow it. they never reviewed the play, and then lied and said they did so that tiger wouldn’t get DQ’d

    a five year old looking at that drop and applying the rule would see the violation. in no way shape or form was that dropped ‘as nearly as possible’ to the previous shot

  3. Yes, what Tiger did was wrong and it would be the “right” thing to do to disqualify himself. However, I’m sorry, but if the officials of the biggest event in the sport didn’t catch this when it happened, then that should be that. This is a professional sport, not a weekend outing to the local three bucks per hole local course (Cart included). If no one made a ruling on the drop immediately, that should be that. What makes it worse is that even after he played on they -still- didn’t say anything. They had to be told by someone watching at home about it. Where the heck was the person that’s paid to follow and make said rulings for each player? And if they don’t exist, why don’t they? Every sport has active officials, what the heck is going on in golf to where this crap isn’t even noticed ’til it’s long passed over and done with? Everyone is throwing a big fuss about this, and I understand the integrity call, but I guarantee you that if they put out an anonymous survey taken by every current tour pro asking if they’ve ever cheated and got away with it, the result would shatter the integrity call. I’m not saying that what he did was right, not at all in any way, but that crap should have been called out -immediately-, not after the card was already signed.

  4. The waiver is certainly a new precedent and was also the right thing to do. Hopefully, it will be a signal to others to be reasonable it appropriate situations. Technically, 33-7 was not designed for situations like Tiger’s at the Masters, but was the fair thing to do. For a technical analysis of the rule (and legal-type analysis), check out:

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