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.