Tournament officials today insisted Tiger Woods had not received preferential treatment and the ruling on his two-shot penalty at the Masters was a “good decision”.
But Fred Ridley, chairman of the Competition Committees at Augusta National, admitted he wished he had told Woods his drop on the 15th hole during Friday’s second round had been under scrutiny.
“I can’t really control what the perception might or might not be,” Ridley said. “All I can say is that unequivocally this tournament is about integrity.
“Our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity, and if this had been John Smith from wherever he would have gotten the same ruling, because again, it is the right ruling under these circumstances.”
Woods’ approach to the 15th hole hit the pin and bounced back into the water. After deciding not to play from the designated drop zone, he opted to play from the same place as his original shot after a penalty drop.
Under rule 26-1a, he was obliged to drop “as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played”, but said in a post-round interview that he opted to go “two yards further back”.
That should have incurred a two-shot penalty for playing from the wrong place, but crucially rules officials reviewed footage of the incident – after being alerted by a television viewer – decided Woods had done nothing wrong and did not inform him of the situation.
“There’s not a day that goes by that there are not some things I wish I would have done differently,” Ridley added.
Woods therefore signed a round of 71, only for his post-round comments to prompt further review and an 8am meeting with the world number one on Saturday morning.
Ridley felt from Woods’ “candid” comments that he had “fully intended” to comply with rule 26-1a and he was given a two-shot penalty, meaning he had signed for an incorrect score – 71 not 73.
Until recently that would have resulted in disqualification, but under a revision to rule 33-7, the committee can waive disqualification if “satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the rules”.
The R&A gives three examples on its website where rules committees would be justified in waiving disqualification.
However, they deal with a player being unaware of a double hit, unknowingly touching a few grains of sand on his backswing while in a bunker and a ball move fractionally on the green but apparently returning to its original position.
In those examples, the issues only come to light due to “super-slow-motion video” or “high-definition” video replay. In Woods’ case, the issue came to light due to his own admission he had broken the rule.