AUGUSTA, Ga. — A ball had not yet been struck at Augusta National Golf Club on Saturday morning, but drama and controversy had already suffocated the 77th Masters, with a ruling issued against Tiger Woods that saved him from disqualification.
Instead of being disqualified, Woods was handed a two-stroke penalty over an improper drop he took during Friday’s second round, turning his 71 into a 73 and leaving him five shots back after 36 holes, instead of three. But golf’s top-ranked player was spared the harsher punishment from tournament officials, who referred to a rule implemented two years ago by golf’s governing bodies that waives disqualification under “exceptional individual cases.”
On Friday, Woods’s third shot to the 15th hole hit the flagstick on the fly, then bounced on the green, rolled down the hill, and trickled into the pond fronting the putting surface. Woods took a penalty drop and finished the hole, making what he thought was a bogey 6.
But in a televised interview, Woods acknowledged that he purposely took his drop 2 yards behind where he had originally played. If accurate — video replay shows Woods playing from several feet behind his original spot — that would be a violation, and because it wasn’t added to his score, Woods had signed an incorrect scorecard, which almost always results in disqualification.
Unknown to Woods, a television viewer called a Masters rules official on Friday and passed along the possible infraction, a phone call that ultimately helped Woods. That’s because the call allowed tournament officials to review the video while Woods was still on the course, which they did, and they determined that no rule had been broken. They did not inform Woods after his round of that decision, and, curiously, had no discussion with him about the matter. Woods signed his scorecard.
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