Tiger Woods Penalty at the Masters; Is Golf the Loser?

Tiger Woods after his 3rd round at the Masters (SkySports.com)

Having just posted a new blog on Friday evening I was not going to add to the ‘noise’ surrounding the Tiger Woods penalty incident, but I have now received so many requests for my opinion and explanation of the ruling that it is easier for me to blog again than to reply to each one individually.

When I was first advised of the circumstances of Tiger’s drop after finding water at the 15th on Friday (I was not watching it live), my first thought was that he must have correctly taken relief under option b) of Rule 26-1, which would have enabled him to drop back as far as he liked along an extension of the line from the hole through where his ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (which was the third time that it crossed the margin). I soon realised that this was not the case and that he had definitely made an invalid drop by dropping about two club-lengths behind where he had last played from, when option a) of Rule 26-1 requires that the ball is dropped ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played. At that point I was sure that Tiger would be disqualified; he played from a wrong place, did not correct the error, did not inform the Committee and he and his marker signed and returned a score that did not incur the penalty that he had incurred. Rule 6-6d states;
Wrong Score for Hole
The competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his score card. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified. If he returns a score for any hole higher than actually taken, the score as returned stands.
What we were not aware of, as the controversy broke, is that the Masters Rules Committee, comprising Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, Jim Reinhart, an Augusta National member and a former Rules of Golf and chairman of the USGA, and Mark Russell vice president of competitions for the PGA Tour, had determined earlier in the evening that Tiger had not taken an improper drop (!!!). Obviously, video evidence is not as accurate as we had imagined. In a press conference on Saturday Ridley commented;
“Having determined that we did not feel there was a rules violation, we did not talk to Tiger, so he completed his round, signed his scorecard, and the first day was over,”
Unfortunately for the Rules Committee, after his round Tiger, who was unaware of either his invalid drop or of their ruling, opened up the can of worms by stating that he purposely dropped his ball two club-lengths further back from where he had previously played from, so as to improve his chances on his 5th stroke. This personal confirmation that he had dropped in a wrong place meant that the Rules Committee were forced to reconvene on Saturday morning to discuss the incident again in light of the admitted breach, and to determine the appropriate penalty. In his press conference Ridley explained;
“I told Tiger that in light of that information that we felt that he had, in fact, violated Rule 26 under the Rules of Golf and that he was going to have to be penalized,” Ridley said. “I also told him because we had initially made the determination that he had not violated the rule … that under Rule 33-7 that there was ample reason not to impose the penalty of disqualification but to waive that penalty and impose a two-shot penalty. We had made a decision before he finished his round, before he finished his scorecard, and I think he’s entitled to be protected by 33-7, and that’s our decision, and others agree with us. Disqualification this morning was not even on the table.”
The relevant part of Rule 33-7 states;
A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.
Many reporters assumed that the Rules Committee had waived the penalty of disqualification under Decision 33-7/4.5, which they have confirmed was not the case. You can see from this extract from that Decision why this would have been embarrassing for the Committee after Tiger’s interview with ESPN;
….if the Committee is satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules, it would be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving the disqualification penalty prescribed by Rule 6-6d. The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred.
Rule 6-1 categorically states that the player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules, so dropping in a place not permitted by the Rules would not qualify for the penalty of disqualification to be waived under this Decision.

So, to be absolutely clear, the Committee waived the penalty of disqualification, because they considered that this was an exceptional individual case where such a penalty would have been too harsh. I am not aware of any other situation where a player who did not know a Rule of Golf (or if they did, they forgot about it) has been favourably treated in this way. I am therefore surprised at the ruling and believe that it may have adverse consequences in the future in similar situations.

The most disappointing feature of this incident is that it could turn some people off the game because of the perceived complexity of the Rules and the way in which they are administered. More than a day after the penalty of only two strokes was confirmed the golfing public is totally divided as to whether Tiger should voluntarily withdraw from completing this year’s Masters. The results of a poll carried out on the esteemed golf journalist, Geoff Shackleford’s website, resulted in 47% saying he should withdraw, 50% saying he should not, with 3% unsure. I am one of the 47%, because I cannot help thinking that the Committee may have arrived at a different ruling if a less ‘noteworthy’ player had been involved. Also, I think that it will take a long time for the doubters amongst those that take an interest in Golf and its Rules, to forget this seemingly biased ruling. It is probable that Tiger may have won more respect and popularity by withdrawing from the Masters, acknowledging that he did in fact return a wrong score card and accepting the same penalty of disqualification that amateurs all over the world have suffered for similar innocent mistakes. One eminent player who believes that Tiger should withdraw and definitely has the right to make such a call, is Greg Norman, who twice disqualified himself while leading tournaments; once in the 1990 Palm Meadows Cup on the Gold Coast for an illegal drop two days earlier, and the other as defending champion in the 1996 Greater Hartford Open for using a possibly non-conforming ball. In both cases, he pulled out as soon as the potential infractions were brought to his attention.

I am writing this blog just before the final round starts, with Tiger lying 4 strokes off the lead. I am hoping that he does not win, as I think that there would be a tsunami of criticism against him, which could affect his future performances. There are occasions in sport where winning is not everything.

Good golfing,

The above content is strictly copyright to Barry Rhodes © 2013 and may not be copied without permission.
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Posted by Barry Rhodes
Anonymous said…

Could you please explain how you concluded that Tiger’s drop was not compliant with 26-1 b? I’m not a golfer, so I have no familiarity. But it seems that since his first shot hit the flag, his original spot was on the line extended from the hole to where the ball crossed the margin of the water hazard. He would be allowed to drop further back along that line,right? No one is addressing this detail, but it’s very important.

14 April 2013 17:08
Kevin Kohler said…
Greetings Barry from the “States”. Enjoy reading your weekly “How Many Strokes?” email but this is the first time I’ve read your ‘blog. I have been watching the Masters and am still a wee bit confused by the Tiger issue from the other day. Given the options of the “Hazard” Rules and proceeding, I still have questions. First is the issue of the “Drop”. (BTW I found this whole process fascinating). My thought would have been to mark the spot/divot and drop accordingly. If the ball rolls rolls closer/2 club lengths away, re-drop/then ultimately “Place” if the ball rolls closer to the green again the new ball next to, but NOT in the old visible divot because the Player is I believe entitled to same/similar lie as previous to the initially made stroke. If Tiger was trying to avoid having the ball roll into the old spot/divot I understand his potential desire to avoid that situation of hitting out of his old divot…..You mention that Tiger was not able to take the entry-point of the ball into the Hazard and the Pin and take a Drop anywhere along that line and drop accordingly and that is where I am more confused. Now regardless of what he said in the interview, that would be irrelevant because he seemingly would have been able to drop back as far he wanted given the line of entry/pin was preserved and being two yards behind or 200 yards away, he still would have been within the Rules for proceeding maintaing the line of entry/pin option for dropping was preserved. Thanks for your interest! Kevin Kohler

14 April 2013 17:17
Barry Rhodes said…

The reference points for a drop under Rule 26-1b are the hole and the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard. In other words, the point where the ball crossed the hazard line after hitting the flagstick. This was to the left of the the line from where Tiger had played his stroke. The line on which he could have dropped a ball under Rule 26-1b was therefore significantly to the left of where he dropped his ball. No-one is addressing this point because there is no suggestion that he elected to take this option.


14 April 2013 17:36
Mat said…
Barry, how can you put this on Tiger? The committee made the wrong call. His withdrawal would simply be falling on the sword for them. It’s their bad call, and as in all sport, referees make bad calls. While golf is different in the sense that one is calling penalties on one’s self, at that level it is the responsibility of the committee to make interpretations.

Clearly there was no intent to break a rule, and the rule that was broken was so incredibly minor as to not be determinable in any way other than through a post-round interview of what was happening in his mind. As close as possible and within two clubs in this case actually has a lot of crossover, and it is the rules that are at fault.

Once the scorecard is signed and the committee is satisfied, the statute of limitations should apply. What if this happens on Sunday? What if he wins by one, and then the next day, just kidding, you don’t win?

The Rules need an overhaul for simplicity. They do in fact all have a reason for existing, but professionals have a hard time figuring out what to do at times. How are the rest of us supposed to care? This is the sort of thing where confusion will cause more slow play on the everyday course. That’s the tough part for me. There are people all over today saying “golf is to complicated to take up”. That’s the shame.

The end should have been the committee saying, “we missed it, and we can’t go back and fix it. He is playing within the rules, and this is our fault.”

14 April 2013 17:38
Barry Rhodes said…

Let me try and answer your queries;

A player does not have to mark the place where the Rules require them to drop.

There are seven situations where the Rule require that a ball is re-dropped (Rule 20-2c), including when the ball rolls closer to the hole.

Under option 26-1a the player must drop their ball “as close as possible” to where they previously played from that is not nearer to the hole.

Tiger could have chosen to drop his ball under Rule 26-1b, but that would have been along a line considerably to the left of where he wanted to play from; that line is from the hole through the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard (i.e. after it had hit the flagstick and rolled back into the water).

To understand the options better, check out my video on taking relief from a water hazard at www.RhodesRulesSchool.com/videos.


14 April 2013 17:50
Barry Rhodes said…

I respect your opinion, but feel that Tiger could be the long-term loser in this (especially if he wins). I have already received comments from previous Tiger supporters who say that they will find it difficult to ‘pull for him’ again.

If you and I and millions of others feel that the Committee arrived at the wrong ruling, for whatever reason they had, Tiger must have some doubts too. In my opinion it would be better for him to withdraw.


14 April 2013 18:01
Mat said…
And I respect yours Barry, as ever.

My concern isn’t over Tiger today, or Tiger at all. Maybe you could opine on Golf’s lack of a statute of limitations? Of course, I think that if the committee suggests they are ok with a card, and then the player signs, it needs to end there. No retroactive penalties or disqualifications.

How say you?

14 April 2013 18:29
Dave Lewis said…
Mr. Rhodes,

I agree with your view on the Tiger Woods controversy.

I have a few questions. How many times has Tiger gone in the water on 15 at Augusta? In interviews after those rounds (one could broaden this query to all rounds he’s played when he’s gone into a hazard) has he ever spoken of the difficulty of the next shot because of where he had to drop?

In other words, does evidence exist of Tiger’s likely (in my view) keen awareness of Rule 26-1?


14 April 2013 18:45
Barry Rhodes said…

Rule 34-1b does limit the imposition of a penalty after the competition has closed, with four exceptions to prevent ‘cheating’. I cannot agree with you that the limit should be when the card is returned and accepted by the Committee. Remember the Rules of Golf apply to everyone, not just Pros. I know of many instances where amateur players have realised, or have been made aware, that they have unknowingly incurred a penalty some time after they have completed their round (often in the bar!).


14 April 2013 18:53
Barry Rhodes said…

I have no idea how many times that Tiger has been in water hazards; it must be in the thousands. He certainly does know the options available, and so does his caddie. His error was no doubt an aberration, maybe because of his annoyance at the outcome of his ball hitting the flagstick and maybe because the dropping zone was in such a bad state. He was still guilty of a basic Rules error that he should have been avoided.


14 April 2013 19:04
Dave Lewis said…

Thanks for the quick response.

I agree, he was guilty. My question is raised by his post-round interview. Can you imagine if (in some alternate universe, rather than ours wherein he was DQed) Craig Stadler, in 1987, said in a post round interview, “I was angry about hitting my shot under the trees and knew I didn’t want to hit the next shot on my knees in the wet, slippery grass, so I put a towel down,” and then later argued his ignorance to the officials about the “building a stance” rule and how it applied in that situation?

…to think this precedent was set at Augusta, sad.

14 April 2013 19:32
Justoldsticks said…
The players ball crossed the margin of the Regular hazard three times. the third was not the same point between the player and the flag stick. In dropping the players must drop as close as possible to the original ball position.

Also when he breached the rule (admitted) did he take unfair advantage (made next shot easier, admitted), and therefore create a serious breach? I say yes he did, withering knowing or unknowing, he said he wanted to make his next shot easier. Serious Breach! Disqualification.

14 April 2013 19:58
Barry Rhodes said…

I’m not sure what point you are making with your first paragraph. I think that everyone agrees that the line of play available under option 26-1b was nowhere near where Tiger dropped his ball and he admits that he was proceeding under option a), but dropped two club-lengths away from where he should have done.

As to your second point, I have to disagree with you and agree with the Committee; there was no significant advantage as a result of him playing two club-lengths further away from the hole than where he should have played from.


14 April 2013 20:24
Robert said…
Barry, I really appreciate your work on this issue and on the Rules in general. And I must say, your analysis of this issue is much like mine, which I like as well!

It seems to me that 33-7/4.5 is exactly on point — the fact that Tiger didn’t get the rule right is not enough for a waiver of DQ. Perhaps you can clarify something for me — is a Decision like that something that the Committee MUST follow, or is that Decision just an aid for the Committee to consider? Because it seems to me that the Decision does not give the Committee leeway in this example.

One other question: is the only difference between Tiger and Camilo being WD’d in Hawaii the fact that the Committee initially ruled that Tiger didn’t violate 26-1a?

That said, while I respect your opinion, I am of the mind that the penalty was fair even if the ruling was incorrect. Tiger mistakenly moved his ball a few feet. DQ or WD seems very harsh in this context, and frankly, 2 strokes seems just right. I continue to believe that the Rules attach too much meaning to signing the scorecard — we should strive to get the Rules right, and instead we focus on finality.

Thanks again.

15 April 2013 02:33
kevin kohler said…
Thanks for your response Barry. Certainly the line of the pin and entry point could come into question if Tiger not knowing how far left the ball actually traveled after hitting the flagstick. His vision may have been obscured from his vantage point and could only tell the ball fell into the water either from the growns of the crowd or he simply took the line back from flagstick and where he thought it entered and moved a bit to the left and dropped to similar distance to the one he had just played.

Regarding the other comments, I am of the opinion that once the scorecard is Signed, that’s it, period, paragraphm, it’s done. Otherwise we’ll have amateur experts and other Officials watching the telecasts and PGA/USGA/RnA/Masters Officials constantly being undermined on site and others having to pour over every detail of every televised tourney when often times its only those images that are televised that are either of interest or relevance at that moment or of a big name. Players could show up at wrong times because their scores had been changed overnight by an Official or the dynamic of the event and strategy would change as scores are ammended after others have teed off. It’s not like these events are sometimes happening in mili-seconds as they are in other sports–One Hole: ~12-15mins. Card Signed>Done. Thanks

15 April 2013 04:05
Barry Rhodes said…

My understanding is that the Decisions form part of the Rules of Golf and must be followed. However, the Masters Rules Committee stated that their ruling was made under Rule 33-7; presumably they did not feel that Decison 33-7/4.5 was relevant to the circumstances. In the end we must accept that a Committee decision is final.

In my opinion you have correctly stated the reason between this incident and the Camilo Villegas situation. The Committee had ruled that no penalty was incurred, before Tiger returned his card.


15 April 2013 10:10
Barry Rhodes said…

No-one, including Tiger, is claiming that he took relief under Rule 26-1b. It was definitely option a) that he thought he was taking.

I do not agree with you on your ‘Card signed-Done’ opinion. Let me give you just one situation; Club medal competition, a player returns a card with a 4 on the 4th. He returns his card and goes into the clubhouse for a meal. In talking through his round he realises that he had taken 5 on the 4th. Your ‘Rule’ would not permit the Committee to disqualify him for returning a score lower than was the case. Rules have to be written, so as to cater for every situation, including penalties incurred that only come to light after the round is over and (whisper) ‘cheating’.


15 April 2013 10:22
John Hussey said…
Initially I thought that given the Committee originally ruled that no breach had occurred (“Having determined that we did not feel there was a rules violation, we did not talk to Tiger, so he completed his round, signed his scorecard, and the first day was over,”) makes me wonder if rule 34-3 should have been cited – The Committee’s decicion is final.
This would then have made Tiger’s card correct and the Committee embarrassed. hoewver it occurs to me that since the (strokeplay) competition is not “posted” until the jacket is presented then they would be able to invoke rule 34-1b.

So whatever way I look at it, I have to agree with the decicion they made – but only because they advised Tiger incorrectly in the first place.

For what is’s worth, I am of the opinion that Tiger knew exactly what he had done at the time. Every professional with his kind of experience knows that his obligation in proceeding under rule 26-1a is to land the ball as close as possible to where the original had sat. Given that professionals practice dropping then striking the ground more than a (very) short distance from that spot should be treated like a “miss” in snooker.
In other words, “you can do better than that sir, can’t you? Please re-drop.”
The fact that in his interview he said that he planned to add two yards to his next shot is gobsmacking – I think he should have withdrawn.

15 April 2013 10:32
Alec Moore said…

thank you for your attention to this important incident. Most of this all seems pretty clear cut to me. There is no doubt that Tiger breached the rules and incurred a two shot penalty. The problem arose only because the committee had evidently reviewed “the drop” before Tiger had finished his round and deemed that no violation of the rules had taken place. This is inexplicable!! Had Tiger been informed of his two shot penalty before he signed his card, there would be no DQ. On the other hand, had the committee not conducted that initial review then Tiger would have been subsequently automatically DQ’d for signing the wrong scorecard. Therefore, it seems obvious to me that the committee’s final decision, based on 33-7 was a cop out as both parties were guilty of a serious misjudgement.

Alec Moore

15 April 2013 10:56
Barry Rhodes said…

Yes, the Committee were entitled to make the ruling they did within the Rules. But they could also have ruled otherwise and one suspects that commercial considerations may have played their part.

I don’t agree with you that Tiger knew what he was doing when he dropped his ball at an invalid spot. He would surely not risk a penalty of two strokes for such a small ‘reward’.

You will have seen that I do agree with you that Tiger should have withdrawn.


15 April 2013 10:57
Barry Rhodes said…



15 April 2013 11:03
Goldie Tillman said…
Being new to golf, I’m not too familiar with the rules of the sport yet (I just play indoors with my ball targets from http://shop.annestone.com/collections/putt-a-round to sort of practice putting with). I do know that Tiger Woods is an awesome golfer and should know how to behave in certain situations on the green.

15 April 2013 13:20
dick kusleika said…
There are two points around this issue that I can’t seem to resolve. First, how can the committee have come to the decision that there was no rule violation prior to the interview? It was clear on the replay where the divot was and that he was well away from it. Was it a simple mistake on their part? Or is there some justification that they’re not telling us? I haven’t seen any justification for this.

Second, I don’t understand how the Committee can ignore Decision 33-7/4.5. The decision seems to address this situation exactly. How can they say they’re not using that decision but merely applying a broader rule? Isn’t that paramount to writing their own decision that exactly contradicts Decision 33-7/4.5?

If I give the Committee the benefit of the doubt (I don’t) then I think they at least owe us an explanation of what is “exceptional” about this situation and how similar past situations aren’t exceptional.

You seem very even-tempered about this. I am not. I think this is as shameful a circumstance as ever has occurred in sport.

15 April 2013 14:06
Barry Rhodes said…

I am pleased that you have found my blog on the Rules of Golf, which you can receive by email every week by entering your contact email address in the top right corner of the home page.


15 April 2013 14:13
Barry Rhodes said…

Take a look at the photos at http://www.golfchannel.com/news/golftalkcentral/woods-positive-drop-was-illegal-despite-photos/?cid=email_MondayNL_20130415
The camera can lie. There would have been no penalty had Tiger not admitted to dropping about two club-lengths behind where he had previously played from.

I covered your second point in my blog. How could the Committee be satisfied that Tiger could not reasonably have known where his drop options were? Obviously, he did know, but in the heat of the moment forgot one of the most basic Rules of Golf, taking relief from a water hazard. Rule 33-7 was their only option to penalise him two strokes and not disqualify him.


15 April 2013 14:35
Dan said…
Hi Barry, thanks for the clarity you always present in your blogs. I enjoy reading your posts and comments but on this occasion I have slight doubt about your comments re Tiger at the Masters. If, as has been said, that all of golfing hierarchy including USGA, PGA tour and the Masters Rules committee were involved and agreed conclusively and unanimously that the decision to impose the 2 shot penalty and waive the DQ is true, why then should Tiger or anyone ignore that ruling and effectively overrule those three grandiose organisations and effectively make their own ruling.
Fred Ridley et al would look stupid in the eyes of the golfing world for making the biggest decision of their lives only to be overruled by the player concerned.
Tiger was right to wait for the committees to come to a conclusion and was right to abide by their decision. If the decision had gone against him then Tiger would have walked and not said a word of disapproval. Therefore I feel it is unfair of you and others to cast doubt on his integrity. He is as honest and true as the next golfer.
Finally, if anyone looks bad from this it’s the grandiose committees I mentioned earlier.
The rules of golf try to be perfect unfortunately humans aren’t and never will be (Peter Alliss BBC)

Goood Luck


15 April 2013 16:03
dick kusleika said…
I respectfully disagree. While most of the answer portion of 33-7/4.5 is about situations where waiving is allowable, the decision’s question is “Would the Committee be justified, under Rule 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?” and the answer is “Generally, the disqualification prescribed by Rule 6-6d must not be waived or modified”. Since none of the remaining scenarios in 33-7/4.5 fit the fact situation, they are not applicable and can be ignored. But the parts I quoted above are applicable and cannot be ignored.

33-7/4.5 is meant to clarify 33-7. It does so by listing some of the exceptional circumstances that would result in a waiver. None of those circumstances exist, so no waiver. I don’t think it’s meant to be a complete list, but if the Committee is claiming exceptional circumstances, then I’d like to know what’s so exceptional about a player forgetting the rules.

15 April 2013 16:15
Anonymous said…
Hi Barry

An interesting rules debate without a doubt and one which has the internet forums buzzing with arguments one way or another.

I must admit that I was expecting you to side with ANGC on this issue, as technically everything that they have done is within the rules, and indeed their decision was checked with and supported by both the R&A and USGA.

The key issue for me is that it is routine on the Tour for players to be informed mid-round or immediately prior to signing their card that they have potentially broken a rule. They then sit down in the TV trucks and study the footage while interviewing the player. A ruling is then made and the player signs the correct card.

For some reason ANGC decided to rule that Tiger’s drop was legal (baffling I know…) without talking to him first or reviewing the TV evidence with him. If they had done so it would quickly have become apparent that he did indeed break a rule and he would have signed for an 8 rather than a 6, taking the DQ off the table.

Why should any player be DQ’d from a tournament due to an error by ANGC? Every player in the Masters deserves the same protection that has been given to dozens of other golfers who have potentially broken a rule, but ANGC’s mistake did not give Tiger that protection in this instance.

We’ll never know whether ANGC made an exception especially for Tiger, or indeed if their initial ruling of it being a legal drop was because it was Tiger. What we do know is that they did act within the rules, and so asking Tiger to withdraw to protect the integrity of the game seems odd. The game is about playing to the rules and accepting the decisions of committees or referees, which is exactly what Tiger did.

For me ANGC are the ones that have come out of this looking bad, but having said that I’m glad that Tiger did not win the Masters as it would have forever been tagged with an asterisk.



15 April 2013 16:21
Barry Rhodes said…

Please do not accuse me of saying things that I have not said. I have never doubted Tiger’s integrity. First, let me clarify that I understand that the Masters Rules Committee were perfectly entitled to make the ruling they did under the leeway offered by Rule 33-7. I also think that they could have ruled that disqualification was appropriate.

The reason that I think that Tiger should have withdrawn from the Masters is that I think that this act would have considerably enhanced his reputation amongst the golfing public, whereas he may never have recovered from the criticism if he had gone on to win. From the responses that I have received this seems to be by far the majority opinion.

One last point. This ruling was made by the Masters Rules Committee, there is no evidence that I am aware of that the USGA, PGA or R&A were directly involved.

15 April 2013 17:02
Barry Rhodes said…

OK we disagree. My strong opinion is that the Committee was justified in imposing the limited penalty of two strokes under the leeway afforded to them by Rule 33-7, for the reasons that they have made public. I also think that they would have been justified in imposing the penalty of disqualification and that is the ruling that I would have preferred.



15 April 2013 17:22
Barry Rhodes said…

We are almost in total agreement. I accept that there was no pressure for Tiger to withdraw from a Rules perspective, the confusion definitely lay at the door of the ANMC. My ‘recommendation’ that he should do so was more to do with enhancing his reputation with the golfing public and to avoid the personal catastrophic situation that would no doubt have erupted had he won.


15 April 2013 17:33
JRC said…

Interesting blog. I’m not following the rationale of the committee or therefore you.

33.7 states: “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.”

What was exceptional about this individual case? A golfer intentionally took action that was plainly against the rules. Is it that he was confused about the rule that made this exceptional? If so, why is that exceptional? It seems that this should be precisely the type of situation in which DQ is required. If it is exceptional, than 6-6d is meaningless; golfers do not need to know the rules.

Is it that the committee initially deemed it proper that makes it exceptional? If so, why? It’s not as if Tiger knew that at the time he signed his card and the onus is on the golfers to know the rules and sign a correct scorecard irrespective of the committee. How does a decision Tiger knew nothing about change anything?

There also seems to be some conflation of knowledge of facts and knowledge of rules going on with some people defending this. Although 33-7/4.5 addresses the situation where a golfer “could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules…”, that isn’t this. This was not a situation where the golfer was unaware of the facts. Indeed, Tiger knew the facts: he intentionally dropped two yards back. This section on its face applies where the facts are unknown, ie.,where a ball moves without the golfer seeing it, or the golfer grounds his club without knowing it, etc.

The only thing that was exceptional here is it involved Tiger while in the hunt.

15 April 2013 18:22
Barry Rhodes said…

Typically, when a possible breach of a Rule is reported to a tournament Committee during a player’s round they will interview the player at the end of their round to ascertain the facts before they sign their card. However, the Masters Rules Committee reviewed the tapes and (wrongly) decided that no breach had occurred. When it later became clear that Tiger had said that he had indeed made his drop in a wrong place they realised that they had made a mistake in not imposing the penalty, which Tiger did not know he had incurred, before he returned his card. The Committee considered this to be the exceptional individual case that warranted the disqualification penalty to be waived. Whether you agree with their ruling or not, there can be no doubt that the Committee had the right to waive the disqualification penalty under Rule 33-7. Decision 33-7/4 is a red herring, as it was not considered by the Committee.


15 April 2013 18:38
JRC said…
I agree that the committee had the right to waive DQ in exceptional cases; I don’t agree this is one or could reasonably be considered one.

If I understand it, the following occurred: (A) the Committee was alerted to the issue; (B) the Committee cleared Tiger without his knowledge; (C) Tiger signed his card; and (D) the Committee became aware of Tiger’s admission.

What if instead: (A) Tiger signed his card; (B) the Committee was alerted to the issue; (C) the Committee cleared him without his knowledge; and (D) the Committee became aware of Tiger’s admission?

Or, what if simply: (A) Tiger signed his card; and (B) the Committee became aware of Tiger’s admission?

In the latter two, it seems to me he would rightly be DQ’d. I’m simply missing what is so exceptional about the Committee clearing him without his knowledge. That decision had no affect on his actions–and was made without all of the facts–so it’s unclear why he should benefit from it.

15 April 2013 19:44
Robert said…
JRC — I hear where you are coming from. I think the Committee’s point is that if they were doing their jobs correctly, they would have talked to him before he signed his card, he would have admitted what he did, and he would have added 2 shots. So in that sense I agree that the waiver under 33-7 was appropriate.

But it also opens the door to a WD argument — Tiger could have said, the Committee wasn’t obligated to tell me anything, I did what I did, and I should take the hit.

Personally, I think everyone got the right result — I don’t see a reason for a rules mistake leading to a DQ here, other than the fact that that’s how it’s always been in the past. As I said above, it seems to me as though signing a card in the middle of a tournament is a rather artificial and unnecessary procedure anyway.

15 April 2013 20:29
Barry Rhodes said…

The difference is that in tournament play if the Committee are made aware of a possible breach they interview the player before they sign and return their score card. This avoids the situation where a player signs for a score that did not include a penalty, which they did not know they had incurred. Having wrongly decided that no penalty was incurred the Masters Rules Committee did not afford Tiger this opportunity. This is the reason they gave for only penalising Tiger two strokes instead of disqualifying him. We can argue whether this was the right ruling, but cannot dispute that they were entitled to do so under the Rules.


15 April 2013 20:31
Sam A said…
This isn’t complicated. Tiger knows the rules; caddy knows the rules. They recorded an incorrect score. They should have DQ themselves. Golf is damaged. The Masters is devalued.
ps – and this is without even mentioning the inquity in penalising the chinese competitor and none else. I’m really really disgusted.

15 April 2013 21:32
Barry Rhodes said…

You have expressed what could be the consequence of these two Rules incidents. Unfortunately, I think that Golf may indeed be the loser, despite an exciting conclusion to this year’s Masters.


15 April 2013 22:35
Ed Duffie, Jr., M.D. said…
15 Apr 13

Barry, Thoughtful analysis and good conclusion. I have a slightly different view. Having been in the “business” of rules officiating for nearly 20 years, I have always found it wise, BEFORE making a decision, especially in a complicated situation, to consult with everyone involved, including the players, caddies, even spectators. Had the Committee done so, I believe they would NOT have come to the conclusion they did. I think they would have found that Tiger had indeed played from the wrong place, gained a significant advantage for his next stroke (he admitted this later) and had failed to correct his error before teeing off at the next hole. He would, and should, have been disqualified for THAT reason, not for signing an incorrect scorecard after the fact as happened here.

The only way Tiger could have avoided disqualification under Rule 20-7 was if the Committee had advised him that he had NOT played from a wrong place before he teed off at 16, thus he had nothing to correct. They apparently did not do this. Tiger knew, or should have known, he played from a wrong place and he admitted after the round that he did so to gain an advantage for his next stroke. He therefore was subject to the provision of Rule 20-7 that requires him to correct his error before playing off the next tee. Having not done so, the Committee should not have waived the penalty of disqualification prescribed by Rule 20-7. The question of disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard should never have come up, in my opinion.

Ed Duffie, Jr., M.D.

16 April 2013 04:45
Dan said…

apologies first if i took you out of context in my earlier blog, however I don’t think withdrawing to bolster popularity has anything to do with this. Tiger is perfectly entitled to be as popular or unpopular as he likes.
I agree really with many that the ANGC have made a balls of it all. TW should have been DQ’d. But having heard the decision he was right to play on without retribution or question.
16 April 2013 09:59
Anonymous said…
Hi Barry. Sorry if you have covered this before. What rule would apply to give him a 2 stroke penalty? I thought if you take an illegal drop you must rectify it. What rule allows the player to apply a 2 shot penalty for an illegal drop at the end of the round? If I am sitting in the deep rough and I take an illegal drop, say for example 1 yard from the hole, is that a 2 shot penalty? I am being facetious with this example, but you understand the point I am making? Or did they apply a 2 shot penalty as allowed by 33-7, rather than DQ him. I hope I am not just being pedantic. Thanks, David

16 April 2013 13:04
Anonymous said…
I have just discovered you and your blog due to this unfortunate incident. I am quite impressed with both your understanding and your ability to boil it down in clear terms. There is a 2 min 15 sec video on youtube of both shots. At the 1:00 mark Commentator Feherty tells the viewer that Tiger is going back to play from the original spot and will likely add a couple yards. Commentator Faldo makes no comment of correction. I am amazed this has gone un-noticed, and that these three men would simultaneaously go brain dead on one of the most commonly applied rules in the game. Going now to sign up for your blog.

16 April 2013 14:40
Barry Rhodes said…

I think that most Rules aficionados agree that the Committee should have interviewed Tiger before he returned his score card. They say that the reason that they did not do so is that having been made aware of a potential invalid drop they examined the tapes and concluded that the drop was OK (!). If you have seen some of the photographic evidence that has since appeared you can see how they might have reached this conclusion. So, they contend, that as they were wrong in not obtaining evidence from Tiger before he signed his card, they were partly to blame and were therefore justified in waiving the penalty of disqualification under Rule 33-7. I do not agree with their ruling, but I do defend their right to make such a ruling within the Rules of Golf.

16 April 2013 15:10
Barry Rhodes said…

Agreed, but he may have alienated approximately 50% of TV golf addicts in doing so!


16 April 2013 15:15
Barry Rhodes said…

It’s Rule 20-7c Playing From a Wrong Place. In stroke play the penalty is two strokes unless the Committee considers the player has gained a significant advantage as a result of playing from a wrong place.


16 April 2013 15:21
Barry Rhodes said…

I am delighted that you have found me! If you become a regular reader of my blogs you will probably find out that I am highly critical of the lack of Rules knowledge of TV golf commentators, golf journalists, professional golfers and caddies, not necessarily in that order!


16 April 2013 15:27
Keith Wiggins said…
Hi Barry

While I agree with your interpretation of the rules in Tiger’s case at Augusta, how do you feel about the whole issue of trial by Televison and its impact upon rulings? Tiger Woods, being one of the most high profile golfers in the world, will be followed and tracked, by TV cameras for virtually every shot, every incident on every hole. It is quite possible, that a lesser profile golfer could committ a rule infraction and because it is not being televised, it’s not picked up. Surely we should have a level playing field for all competitors?

16 April 2013 15:37
Marty M. said…
I am astounded that the issue is not distilled and strictly limited to two facts:

1. Scorecard was signed.
2. The player subsequently admits to infraction.

I can never remember an instance were the rules committee accepted responsibilty for the signing of a scorecard. Ever.

And, if they are now responsible in some way, isn’t it really an impossible obligation to be that omnipresent to give everyone in the field in a medal tournament the same treatement? How many on-course refereess will be needed to run a tournament (from junior events to tour events)? How many off-course rules officials will be needed to be standing by in case they need to be suddenly brought in to adjudicate a matter quickly enough in order to intervene before the card is signed?

I have visions of “Pandora’s boxes”, “cans of worms”, and “opened geenie bottles.”

16 April 2013 15:43
Janet Beal said…
From my understanding the ONLY thing that stopped Tiger being DQ’d was that ANGC had failed to speak to him about the situation BEFORE he handed in his card.

* If they had spoken to him before his card was handed in, then his error would have been determined, and a 2 shot penalty added BEFORE the card was handed in.

* If the TV viewer had not rung in, but then the broken rule was discovered when Tiger spoke of it in his press conference, then the ONLY option would have been a DQ.

My problem is with the way this has been dealt with by ANGC.

One of the first things you learn when you start refereeing is to talk to people BEFORE cards are handed in if there is a query about a rules infraction.

WHY on earth did ANGC NOT talk to Tiger and his group before the cards were handed in!!!!

(there are various conspiracy theories about this)

In my opinion, ANGC should have come clean and admitted that THEY made an error in not reviewing the situation with Tiger on Friday before his card was handed in, and in so doing, increased the penalty from two shots to DQ. They then decided to use 33-7 to reduce the penalty to what is should have been if they had done their jobs properly.

16 April 2013 16:42
Bret Schlyer said…
Question about 2 aspects of this. Since 26-1a requires a drop “as close as possible” – is that phrase ever defined? In a situation where its a lost ball after a shot where no divot was taken, how close do you have to get? Are there different thresholds depending on circumstances? In Tiger’s situation, would 2 feet have been close enough, 6 inches?

As to the photos – particularly the one comparison shot that came from a stationery camera that showed Tiger’s feet in nearly the same position. How is that evidence that camera’s can lie, vs evidence that Tiger was mistaken about how far he moved back? He did say 2 yards, then 1 yard, so even his statements were unclear.

16 April 2013 16:42
Bob Hodo said…
(This may be a second copy, not sure if the first one went through)

I am interested in your opinion as to what the duty of a non-competitor marker assigned to Tiger’s group would have been had he observed the illegal drop, and before Tiger hit his 5th shot. Thanks.

16 April 2013 16:47
Barry Rhodes said…

I blogged on ‘Armchair Rules Officials and Penalties’ on 12th January 2011 (http://www.barryrhodes.com/2011/01/armchair-rules-officials-and-penalties.html).

Yours is an opinion that is regularly voiced, but I certainly do not agree. If you read my blog you will see that in my opinion it is better for a player to be penalised for a breach that has been witnessed by thousands of viewers, than the alternative, which might result in them being vilified for the rest of their career, especially if they happened to win, as a result of the penalty not being applied.

Coincidentally, in the same ‘armchair’ blog, I also gave an opinion on why players who had signed for a wrong score, due to them not including a penalty that they did not know they had incurred, should be disqualified.



16 April 2013 17:20
Barry Rhodes said…

I understand what you are saying, but it has been the practice of tournament Committees to take some responsibility for checking the score cards before the player leaves the scoring area for some time. My guess is that this is partly due to interventions by omnipresent TV armchair officials and partly due to high-profile incidents where players have signed the wrong card, or forgot to sign their card, etc.

From what we are led to believe the Masters Rules Committee feel ‘guilty’ for not stopping Tiger from signing his card, when they had previously been advised that there may be an issue with his drop. In this situation, I respect that they were within the Rules to make the decision they did, but I do not agree with it.


16 April 2013 17:31
Barry Rhodes said…

I think that your analysis is correct. However, playing devil’s advocate, some photos that have now been published relating to the area of drop do provide credibility to the Committee’s initial conclusion that the drop was valid.

Unfortunately, we will never know for certain what went on behind the Committee’s closed doors and their true reason(s) for waiving the disqualification penalty.


16 April 2013 17:41
Barry Rhodes said…

No ‘as nearly as possible’ is not defined in the Rules. How could it be? If you were playing on a strange course and hit your ball over 200 yards, but could not then find it, so you had to walk back to play from where you last played from, estimating within 10 yards may be difficult. If you did know exactly where you played from then in my opinion 6 inches would be around the outside limit, whereas 2 feet would not.

We all know that photo evidence can be misleading, especially when telephoto lenses are being used. The fact is that Tiger admitted that he played from a wrong place, so there was definitely a breach of the Rule.


16 April 2013 18:04
Barry Rhodes said…

I understand that Rules Officials are encouraged to step in to prevent Rules being breached. Similarly, a fellow competitor should intervene to stop a player from dropping in a wrong place. There is no penalty for giving information on the Rules.


16 April 2013 18:13
Marty M. said…
What about rule 20-7?

This is one rule that I actually do remember from my junior golf days.

If a player commits a serious breach in terms of playing from a wrong spot (which Tiger admits by moving back two yards), the player needs to resolve the issue in a very short period of time – has to figure it out himself, or someone has to tell him, BEFORE teeing off on the next hole. Once he knows, he needs to go back, drop properly, and play out the hole in accordance to the rules under the penalty of two stokes. If he tees off on the next hole, it is too late. He is disqualified.

I am unclear why only Rule 26-1 is referred to by the Masters Committee. While it does give instructions as to the options for dropping the ball, it does not address the penalties for playing from the wrong spot – which is what Rule 20-7 does.

So, in essense, Tiger committed two breaches that result in disqualification under Rule 6-6b AND Rule 20-7.

If the Masters Committee is going to waive disqualification at their discretion, don’t they have to waive every breach resulting in disqualification? (ie he got out of jail on 6-6b, but under the Rules shouldn’t he remain disqualified under 20-7 until the Committee specifically waives that as well?)

It might also be important to note that Tiger had long since teed off on 16th before the Committee became aware. How could they have had a chance to discuss anything in the 10 mins and inform him? The damage was done before they deliberated the issue.

16 April 2013 20:24
Barry Rhodes said…

Your memory has let you down. The relevant part of Rule 20-7 states;

If a competitor makes a stroke from a wrong place, he incurs a penalty of two strokes under the applicable Rule. He must play out the hole with the ball played from the wrong place, without correcting his error, provided he has not committed a serious breach.

When a player plays from a point on a fairway one or two club-lengths further away from the hole than where he should have under the Rules, a Committee is unlikely to (and in this case did not) rule that it was a serious breach.

Tiger was penalised two strokes for not playing from either of the places that were permitted under Rule 26-1, relief from water hazard.


16 April 2013 21:10
Bob Hodo said…
I am now obsessing about this. I have noticed that 26-1a uses different terminology than 26-1b and 26-1c. The latter two both clearly instruct the player to “drop a ball…”. But 26-1a says “by playing a ball…”. One must follow the references to 27-1 and 20-5 to find the instruction that in order to play the ball it must be dropped in accordance with those rules. Ought not 26-1a just use the same phrase to begin with? “Drop the ball as nearly as possible…?” Why can’t they write the rules as clearly as you explain them, Sir?

17 April 2013 00:05
Barry Rhodes said…

I have come to understand that there is almost always a very good reason for the way the Rules are written, after all they have evolved over 270 years! I assume that the reason why R26-1a uses the phrase, “by playing a ball as nearly as possible…” is that if the previous stroke was from the teeing ground then the player is permitted to tee their ball or place their ball anywhere in the teeing ground, they do not have to drop it.

Thanks for the compliment!