Levet backs Woods’ penalty but wants rules simplified

Tiger Woods drives during the final round. Picture: Getty
Tiger Woods drives during the final round. Picture: Getty
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FORMER Scottish Open champion Thomas Levet has called for the rule that Tiger Woods violated to earn his second two-shot penalty this year to be reduced to one option instead of three as part of the game’s laws being “simplified”.

While insisting the rules are “too complicated”, the Frenchman also said players themselves should at least know the fundamental ones so they can avoid being made to look foolish by an army of armchair officials desperately waiting to become whistleblowers.

When Woods saw his third shot at the 15th in Friday’s second round hit halfway up the pin and spin back into the water, he had three options under Rule 26. Play it from a designated drop area, play from in line with where the ball last crossed the water hazard or play from the original spot of his third shot.

According to Levet, that’s a perfect example of why the game can tie people in knots, though he is adamant the reason Woods didn’t drop his ball in the same spot when he took the latter of those options was more a case of someone being caught up in the heat of battle than knowingly trying to seek an advantage.

“Yes, of course, it’s a mistake to not know the Rules of Golf,” Levet, who was working for French TV, told The Scotsman. “But they are very complicated and every year we hear people saying they are too complicated. Why not simplify them?

“For instance, at a water hazard, why don’t we just have the one rule whereby you can drop the ball two club lengths from where it went in. If you only had one drop, we wouldn’t see players getting mixed up the way Tiger did.

“Things happen every week in a golf tournament due to the rules being so complicated. In one of the rounds we played this year, we had to call the referee four times and three times even he had to consult the book because he didn’t know without doing that. I think, when you need to take penalties, it needs to be simpified but, at the same time, the players themselves need to know the basics. When you are playing in a group with a referee, it’s also their responsibility to step up and offer the correct advice.”

Woods, who missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship in his first start of the year after also being hit with a two-shot penalty for taking an illegal drop from an ice plant, survived on this occasion through Rule 33, which was introduced two years ago.

“The one in Abu Dhabi is something he clearly didn’t know about and this one was a mistake brought about by pressure,” added Levet, who was a popular Scottish Open winner at Loch Lomond in 2004. “It’s a big tournament and he’s just hit the most unlucky shot he’s probably ever played. His mind was all over the place, probably, and he was just trying to hit a good shot with the next one.

“The player is at fault, the caddie is at fault, the referee, too, if there’s one in the group, in an instance like that. The pressure of playing in a big tournament like this can easily make people do something they don’t necessarily realise.

“I think the two-shot penalty and Tiger being allowed to play on was a good decision. From the moment he’s signed his scorecard, having reviewed what had happened and deciding no action was going to be taken, they can’t disqualify Tiger. After that they discovered he’d moved the ball back. There’s a clear breach of the rule, hence the two-shot penalty.

“I think the action taken was fair for Tiger. Did he intend to break the rules? No, he didn’t. It’s a way of saying you are being punished for an illegal drop, but you still deserve to be in the tournament. I don’t like to see people being disqualified after they’ve signed their scorecard.”