Tiger Woods had any number of options when his approach on the 15th caromed into a water hazard. Re-taking the shot two yards from the original spot was not one of them.
But he did that. He broke the rules. End of discussion.
After the round ended, Woods appeared to admit wrongdoing, telling ESPN, "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.''
Whether or not Woods should have been disqualified for his breach is a discussion for another article (and believe me, they will be legion).
But before we can assess what Woods knew and when he knew it, we first have to ask ourselves, what in the heck was the dude thinking?
Let's start with the most scurrilous assumption, that Woods knew he was breaking the rules and did so with the expressed purpose of gaining a competitive advantage.
That would also assume the following:
A.) The highest profile athlete at the sport's highest profile competition actually thought he could get away with a blatant rule violation even though he was encircled by a small army of officials, fans and high-definition television cameras.
B.) Drunk on mischief, the highest profile athlete at the sport's highest profile competition then bragged about his indiscretion on live television.
And he did all this for what? To move two yards back from the original launch spot?
No one in his right would do either of those things—much less both—to gain such an infinitesimal advantage. In fact, I'm not convinced Woods gained any advantage at all (and longtime pros like Curtis Strange are equally skeptical).
The second option is that Woods had no idea he was breaking the rules and was only made aware of his mistake after the fact.
This is essentially the position Woods took in a series of tweets sent out Saturday morning:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Tiger Woods tweets a statement about his two-stroke penalty http://t.co/zUvoOr7V0b2013-4-13 16:04:59
This is an equally indefensible position. Woods—one of golf's all-time great control freaks—isn't just telling us he goofed on the sport's biggest stage, he's also saying he didn't know the rules.
How else could we reconcile his post-round interview with a statement that says, "I didn't know I had taken an incorrect drop?"
So you knew you were shooting two yards back from the original spot, you just didn't know that was a violation?
That would strain credulity for any golfer, much less one renowned for his soaring intellect and attention to detail.
What we're left with, then, is an impossible dichotomy.
Either Woods is the most reckless competitor of all time, or the dumbest.
Neither sounds like Tiger.