The #1 player in the world nearly found himself disqualified from golf’s first major of the year early Saturday morning.
Tiger Woods was the subject of intense scrutiny prior to the beginning of Saturday’s third round of The Masters in Augusta, Ga. The controversy swirled around an already incredible sequence of events. In the second-round, Woods faced an 87-yard approach to the par-4 15th. He flushed the wedge shot, and the ball took a hard ricochet off the flagstick, shooting back into the lateral water hazard.
At the time, Woods was 5-under for the tournament and looking to take sole possession of the lead after 36 holes with a birdie. Following the bad break, he had one of three options according to the official Rules Of Golf. He could have played from the drop circle on the green side of the hazard, which would have left him with a difficult up-and-down. He could have played the ball literally anywhere on the line behind where the ball entered the water (between there and the hold), but would have also been far left. So he simply chose the best option for him – to play the ball “as near to where the original was played” and take his one stroke penalty.
It wasn’t until after the round, when Woods himself stated he played the ball about two yards back of the original position, that most of us realized what this could mean for his chase for a 15th major championship.
Here’s the problem. There are rules officials literally everywhere at a tournament like this. Where were they when Woods was making his drop? Their entire job is to make sure these things are caught and dealt with appropriately. No doubt, Woods made a serious error in playing the ball behind the original spot. However, if the rules officials were on the ball, they could have made him adjust the spot, or just assessed the proper penalty before he signed an “incorrect” scorecard.
We know they can do it – just ask Dustin Johnson, who in the 2010 PGA Championship was assessed a two stroke penalty for grounding his club in a hazard that he didn’t even know existed, because the gallery had trampled the grass in the area.
In the end, justice has technically been served. Woods will begin play on Saturday at 1-under, 5 strokes back of leader Jason Day. While the hunt for another major championship seems to have been derailed somewhat, Augusta National is a tricky place, and if anybody can make a move this weekend, Tiger has certainly displayed the game to do it.