The Augusta National Golf club has changed the precedent of golf history Saturday morning by assessing Tiger Woods a two-shot penalty after hitting an illegal shot after a drop on the 15th hole and subsequently signing an incorrect scorecard.
Here is the punishment:
Tiger Woods has been assessed a two-stroke penalty for illegal drop.Now 1-under.WIll not change his start time today.#Masters— Masters Updates (@Masters_Updates) April 13, 2013
Until Saturday, an incorrect scorecard would mean an automatic disqualification from the tournament.
When Roberto De Vincezo signed an incorrect scorecard after the final round of the 1968 Masters, he went from playing in an 18-hole playoff that Monday with Bob Goalby to watching Goalby slide the green jacket on that night.
Since Woods' infraction was spotted via television instead of on the course, the ANGC had some wiggle room to rule the way they did via a rule change two years ago.
The change was made after a high-speed camera caught an infraction by Padraig Harrington (via Golf Week) which led to his disqualification at an event in Abu Dhabi.
At the time, they wrote:
It is not a change in the actual Rules of Golf, rather a book of Decisions that allows officials various case studies. The new interpretation is of Decision 33-7/4.5, that essentially gives officials more latitude to determine whether a player should be disqualified.
The problem here is two-fold.
Augusta National will now have to enforce this ruling equally into the future. On the surface—and especially on the heels of Friday's decision to enforce a one-stroke penalty to 14-year-old Tianlang Guan for slow play—this decision looks like Augusta National is playing favorites.
Would they have made the same decision with a lesser player?
More importantly, Woods admitted in interviews he dropped the ball a couple yards back on purpose on television. Certainly, he must of understood that made his decision a rather sketchy one.
Here is what he said in a post-round interview (via ASAP Sports):
Well, I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, it's really grainy there. And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop.
So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I took, tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit.
Why did he not confer with an official? The rule specifically says if he chooses to go back to where he played his shot, it should be nearest to where he played it. Six feet is not near it.
The fault lies with Augusta here. By interpreting the rule the way they have, they open themselves up for unneeded scrutiny and second-guessing any player in the future is disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to golf rules. However, this one is pretty clear.
If they deemed he did violate Rule 26.1 and signed an incorrect scorecard as a result, he should have been disqualified.
Throwing more mud in an already dirty pond does no one any favors.