In the face of two wrongs, Masters officials came up with a right in opting not to disqualify Tiger Woods from the first major of the year, golf’s global governing bodies said on Wednesday.
The Royal & Ancient (R&A) and the US Golf Association (USGA) issued a lengthy statement on the contentious issue saying Masters officials acted correctly in exercising discretion, but that the case should not set a general precedent.
Tournament officials were alerted by a television viewer to the fact that Woods may have taken an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of the second round at Augusta National last month.
However, they decided no infraction had occurred and failed to discuss the matter with Woods before he signed his card.
Woods acknowledged in a post-round interview that after hitting the flagstick and seeing his ball roll into the water at 15 he had dropped the ball about two yards back from the original shot to avoid a similar risk.
Rules require a drop “as nearly as possible” to where his original ball had been played, so he should have been assessed a two-shot penalty. Woods therefore faced disqualification for signing an incorrect card.
The USGA and the R&A concluded the Masters tournament committee “reasonably exercised its discretion” in waiving disqualification, since officials could have perhaps prevented him from signing an incorrect card.
“In deciding to waive the disqualification penalty, the Committee recognized that had it talked to Woods — before he returned his score card — about his drop on the 15th hole and about the Committee’s ruling, the Committee likely would have corrected that ruling and concluded that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place,” the USGA and R&A wrote.
“In that case, he would have returned a correct score of eight for the 15th hole and the issue of disqualification would not have arisen,” they wrote.
However, they stressed that the incident “should not be viewed as a general precedent for relaxing or ignoring a competitor’s essential obligation under the Rules to return a correct score card.”