Saturday, April 13, 2013

What in the World Happened With Tiger at the Masters???

 So we all have now heard at least a little something about the Tiger Woods situation.  I want to go over the facts as they have been given, and the development of the ruling.  I also want to clarify some mistakes that have been pushed through the press as well as the mockery of the Rules the Masters Committee is making...

First, what did Tiger do wrong?  When taking his drop on the 15th hole he had four options: 1) he could play the ball as it lies.  That was clearly not feasible so he could 2) use the dropping zone provided as an additional option under Rule 26-1.  He didn't like the area of the drop zone, so he could 3) drop a ball on a point directly in line with the hole and where the ball last crossed the margin of the flagstick, with no limit to how far back the ball is dropped.  He didn't like the angle for that approach, so 4) he could proceed under stroke and distance by playing a ball from as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.  He chose this option, officially Rule 26-1a.  But, as he stated in the interview, he intentionally dropped a few yards, or a few feet behind the original spot for a better yardage.  There's our breach.

While "as nearly as possible" is a deliberately ambiguous phrase, purposely dropping several feet or yards away from the spot is not "as nearly as possible."  He was required to correct the drop under Rule 20-6, and when he played it, he had played from a wrong place in breach of Rule 26-1a and incurred a two stroke penalty.  He did not include that two stroke penalty (by the way all the networks saying it was a one stroke penalty were wrong) in his score.

When this was discovered, the Rules of Golf would normally say that Tiger had signed for a score lower than he had actually received and was subject to Disqualification since the competition had not closed.

The Masters Committee decided to give him the two stroke penalty and waive the DQ penalty citing Rule 33-7.  That would be fine and dandy except that Decision 33-7/4.5 specifically states, "The Committee would NOT be justified in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d (signing for a score lower than actually made) if the competitor's failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the competitor could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card."  In plain English, the Masters Committee's reasoning for using Rule 33-7 is WRONG.

HOWEVER, the explanation given by Chairman Fred Ridley would make sense...under a different Rule.  The explanation given is that the Committee had reviewed the drop and had deemed there was no breach prior to Tiger returning his score card.  Because they felt there was no breach, they did not talk to Tiger about it.  After being contacted by CBS after Tiger's interview, the went back to review the situation again.  The then contacted and spoke with Tiger early this morning and decided that there was in fact a breach and they assessed the appropriate two stroke penalty.

The appropriate term for this is "Committee Error."  If you look at Decision 34-3/1, the Committee is entitled to correct an incorrect ruling in stroke play provided the competition has not closed.  They may do so by either rescinding an incorrectly assessed penalty or assessing a penalty not previously given.  That is exactly what they did in this case, but the explanations given have been very poor in terms of the Rules of Golf.

This is a situation where we may never know what exactly happened with the Masters Committee behind closed doors, whether they had made a decision regarding the drop prior to Tiger returning his card, or whether they did whatever they could to keep Tiger in the event.  What frustrates me is that there are some brilliant Rules minds working the Masters, but they are not the decision makers.  Ultimately, the Masters Committee can do whatever they want with their tournament, but if this were Merion in a couple months this would have gone one of two ways: 1)the USGA would never have let Tiger leave the scoring area before talking about that drop or 2) Tiger would be on his way back to Florida.

Frankly, the Committee should admit they made a mistake, chalk it up to Committee error and be done with it.  Or, what really should have happened, is that a unilateral decision on his drop should not have been made without first asking the player what he was doing.  Then they could have properly assessed the penalty yesterday without the controversy.

Oh by the way, John Paramour from the European Tour assessed the 14-year old a one stroke pace of play penalty.  My thought:  he was warned twice and then given the penalty, and then the final pace of play for the day was near 6 hours.  Ouch.  I'm glad Guan made the cut.  On the other hand, Paramour is the official who issued a pace of play penalty to a pro on the Euro Tour just two or three weeks ago (see previous article).  Maybe he was being consistent.  More on Guan later.


  1. Ryan -

    You state - " Ultimately, the Masters Committee can do whatever they want with their tournament, but if this were Merion in a couple months this would have gone one of two ways: 1)the USGA would never have let Tiger leave the scoring area before talking about that drop or 2) Tiger would be on his way back to Florida."

    Under what circumstances would Tiger have been DQ (#2 above) if the USGA was running the event?

    1. He would be DQ'd for signing and returning a score card with a score for a hole lower than actually made because he failed to include the two stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place. See paragraphs 3 & 4 above.

    2. But if we follow the timeline of facts, a TV viewer called in the possible infraction. Assuming the USGA was running the event and received that phone call, would they have initiated a review of the alleged infraction including speaking with the player before he left the scoring table?

    3. Absolutely. I believe the USGA or R&A (or PGA for that matter) would not have let Tiger leave the scoring area without discussing the situation given the timeframe we have been told.

    4. So as you say, the USGA, R&A, etc. would have spoken to Tiger about his drop, listened to his comments and make a ruling. Based on the information we know, assuming the comments Tiger made to ESPN would be the same comments he would make to the USGA, would he have received a 2-shot penalty or been disqualified?

    5. Because they would be speaking to him prior to signing his score card, he would be assessed the appropriate 2 stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place, not a serious breach. He would never have been subject to disqualification because he would not have returned a score card with a score lower than actually taken.

  2. Ryan - Thanks for the reply which is what I assumed would happened if the USGA was running the tournament.

    So then why, in your blog post did you write "but if this were Merion in a couple months this would have gone one of two ways: ... 2) Tiger would be on his way back to Florida."

    There is no realistic situation where the USGA would have DQ'd Tiger based on your statement of how they would have handled it. Just another gentle jab at the Masters organizers?

    1. If, by chance, the USGA did not have a chance to review the footage or did not become aware of the situation until the post-round interview, Tiger would be DQ'd. Hence the two possible outcomes: either aware prior to signing, or not aware and DQ.
      I only have allegiance to the Rules of Golf on this site. The more review this situation gets the more I don't have an issue with the end result but rather the handling and given explanation for the ruling. I think the Masters Committee actually agrees they made a mistake (based on post-ruling Ridley comments) in their handling of it and don't need any further jabs.
      I'm sure if any Committee members disagreed at the time, they voiced their opinions, and once the decision was made it was their responsibility to support the Committee. I have the luxury and freedom of voicing my own criticism of the ruling and its handling in the construct of the Rules of Golf and no personal insult was intended.