I know you’ve probably read 10-too-many opinions on Tiger’s drama at the 15th on
Friday at Augusta, but I haven’t had the opportunity to offer mine yet, so please bear with
me. I’ll try to be quick.
First and foremost, I, like many of you, just learned about Rule 33, which was amended
in 2011 by both the USGA and the R&A to address a possible disqualification due to a
player who signed an incorrect scorecard as the result of a rules infraction determined
by “recent advances in video technologies.” Basically a rule was put in place to prevent
viewers like you and I from phoning in a rules violation we see from our couch that
ultimately results in a player’s disqualification.
So under the rules of golf, specifically Rule 33 regarding the TV viewer calling in the
violation and Rule 20-7, which states that if a player plays from the wrong place, “…he
incurs a penalty of two strokes,” Tiger’s two-stroke penalty was the correct one.
My biggest question, and one we won’t ever get an answer for, is did Tiger knowingly
take that drop to gain an advantage? He said no. Some, including David Duval, tweeted
that he likely did. Unless you were inside Tiger’s head when it happened or he told you
about it afterward, how could you possibly know this? Sure, you can have your own
opinion, like me, but that’s it, at least for now.
Kendra Graham, a former USGA rules official, offered her interpretation of the situation
in a piece on golfchannel.com, stating, “There is a penalty regardless of whether the
player plays from a wrong place on purpose or by accident, knowingly or unknowingly.
Intent has nothing to do with the outcome.”
As you’ll see below, Tiger said he just wasn’t “thinking” when he took that drop. Would
he really knowingly take an improper drop with so many people watching on the course
and on TV? He had to have thought that an official, his playing partners Luke Donald and
Scott Piercy, or a knowledgeable fan, would have called him out on it. Am I right?
Let’s quickly review Tiger’s options after his second shot on No. 15 found the drink.
He had choices to 1) drop the ball as close as possible to the exact spot from where he
had just played his shot, 2) drop the ball in the drop zone or 3) drop the ball as far back
behind the hazard, maintaining a direct line from the point at which the ball last crossed
Let’s start with that third option and work our way back. After Tiger’s ball deflected
off the flagstick, it bounced back off the front of the green and rolled into the front-left
portion of the water. That’s where it last crossed the hazard. For whatever reason, Tiger
did not choose this option.
Tiger discarded the second option after he saw that the grass in the drop zone was
growing against the grain and that the area was “a little bit wet” and “muddy.”
Tiger chose option No. 1: to drop the ball as close as possible to the exact spot from
where he had played his previous shot. Apparently he did not like that spot so he elected
to drop the ball about two yards behind it. That’s where he violated Rule 26.
He was allowed to go as far back as he wanted on the line where the ball last crossed the
hazard, but that was way over to the left of where he had played his previous shot, where
the ball entered the hazard after hitting the flagstick. He was not allowed to go as far back
as he wanted beyond where he played his previous shot because that spot wasn’t on the
line where the ball last crossed the hazard.
If Tiger wanted to play from the spot where he hit his previous shot, he had to drop
the ball as close as possible to that spot. His drop two yards behind the divot from his
previous shot wasn’t deemed “as close as possible.” I think we can all agree on that.
But, and this is a big but, neither the rules officials who were present on the hole nor his
playing partners objected to this drop, correct? No one said anything at the time, and in
discussions later in Tiger’s round, the rules committee and officials who were on hole
No. 15 when it happened concluded that his drop was close enough to where he had
played his last shot.
If Tiger knew that he wasn’t dropping “as close as possible” to the spot where he played
his second shot and went ahead and did it anyway, and then lied about it, we don’t have
a rules of golf violation. Remember, intent isn’t in the equation according to Graham. We
have a major morality violation once again with Mr. Woods.
Here is how he summed up his thought process while making the drop:
Q: Did you think you could go back