TIGER Woods was last night trying to create history and win a fifth Masters title but, for once, tournament officials at Augusta were perhaps secretly wishing someone else got to pull on the famous Green Jacket.
All 14 of Woods’ major titles have come when he led or shared the lead going into the final round but the world No 1 found himself four shots adrift of Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera going into the last 18 holes.
That he was still in the tournament at all was the subject of fierce debate after he took an incorrect drop on the 15th hole during Friday’s second round.
Tournament officials were alerted by a television viewer, but cleared Woods of any wrongdoing and crucially failed to even inform him that there had been concerns.
Woods therefore signed for a 71 before saying in a post-round interview that he had gone “two yards further back” from where he hit his original shot after seeing it clatter into the pin and bounce back into the water. Under rule 26-1a, he was obliged to drop “as nearly as possible” to where his original ball had been played. That would normally mean a two-shot penalty and disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard but, under the recently revised rule 33-7, the rules committee waived that sanction and instead applied the penalty on Saturday morning and allowed Woods to continue in the tournament.
Fred Ridley, chairman of the Competition Committees at Augusta National, admits he wished he had told Woods his drop had been under scrutiny, while former US Open champion Lucas Glover explained how such incidents are handled by officials in regular tour events.
“Any times there’s an outstanding issue that could have come up from a ruling, they’ll wait for you and say ‘Sorry, don’t sign your card, let’s talk about it,”’ Glover said.
“They’ll do everything they can to keep you from signing your card if there’s an infraction that a rules official didn’t witness or that a question came up.”
Steve Stricker also pointed the finger at tournament officials, adding: “I think if they would have come up to him before he signed his card, he would have said ‘Okay, let’s go through it and you’re right, I did take two steps back, it’s a two-shot penalty and signed for two shots higher, end of story.’ But I think the way it all played out, all in all they got it right. No doubt he [Woods] didn’t think he was violating the rules by any means.
“You’re going to get somebody that’s watching this at home that’s not really an avid golfer, and they’re going to go ‘Are you serious? They’re going to charge this guy two shots when he dropped this far apart?’
“When you really think about it it’s crazy, but it’s our rules and we play by them.”
Defending champion Bubba Watson said he was in favour of rule 33-7 after twice being involved in rules debates prompted by TV viewers.
“I think the rule is great because it should protect us,” Watson said. “The sad thing is the high profile player gets the camera on him at all times. I can get away with it today, because I don’t have a camera on me.
“When somebody calls in like that, it shouldn’t be allowed. Nobody calls in during a basketball game or a football game. You can make it [a phonecall] and put bad press on somebody. All it takes is one person and bad press gets on you, even though you did nothing wrong.”