Tiger Woods Penalty: Should He Have Disqualified Himself After Illegal Drop?

James McMahonContributor IApril 13, 2013

Tiger birdied the first hole of this controversial third round Saturday.
Tiger birdied the first hole of this controversial third round Saturday.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

There have been throngs of players, pundits and golf fans who have bemoaned the Masters Rules Committee’s decision to allow Tiger Woods to play Saturday—not to mention his own decision not to disqualify himself. 

Woods turned a deft ear to this criticism, teeing it up at 1:45 p.m. today in the third round at Augusta National. And the world’s No. 1 player was exactly justified in doing so.

After a second review of the drop made by Woods yesterday on the par-five 15th hole, and a meeting with him this morning, the rules committee accessed a two-shot penalty rather than disqualifying him for the infraction that resulted in Tiger signing for a wrong score.

As a result, Woods accepted the penalty and got ready to play the third round of the Masters.

Now, no controversy involving Tiger is ever small or inconsequential, but the idea that the Masters is playing favorites or that Woods is disrespecting the game by not falling on his own sword is unfair given the circumstances surrounding the ruling.  

After a viewer’s call came into the club about Tiger’s drop, the committee reviewed it while Woods was still on the course and found no problem. Not until hours after Woods mistakenly told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that he dropped “two yards behind” his original position did the committee look at the tape again.

While it was determined that Woods did violate the rule, the committee “waived disqualification” because it had initially determined the drop proper when Woods was still on the golf course. Had the initial review been done properly, Woods would have taken a penalty but still been able to sign the correct card.

Certainly it’s open to interpretation, as many rules in golf are, but there was no clear advantage gained by Woods' drop and no intent to skirt the rules of golf for personal gain. The ball was dropped close to the mark, behind it and on the same line to the green.

Again, opinions will vary, especially given the polarizing nature of Woods, but the fact is the Augusta National powers that be determined Woods should play, albeit from five shots back rather than three. Given that, why, then, should Tiger voluntarily take himself out of the biggest golf tournament of the year?

Had he been told to go home Saturday morning, Woods would have done that and more than likely taken responsibility for the disqualification and would have been applauded for taking his medicine and following the committee’s decision. By the same measure, it should be accepted that Tiger took the penalty handed to him and went out to play from where it left him in the tournament.

CBS commentator Nick Faldo, however, called on Tiger to “do the manly thing” and withdraw from the tournament. It seems that by respecting the committee’s decision and heading out to play after the two-shot penalty, amid a storm of controversy and distraction, Woods is doing just that—manning up and taking care of his business.

Faldo’s opinion and the opinions of those who agree with him are understandable. It’s also fair that some golfers look at this a little sideways given Woods’ stature in the game.

But look no further than the decision to slap 14-year-old Tianlang Guan with a stroke penalty for slow play on Friday as proof that Augusta National holds its rules in the highest regard and far above the stature or popularity of the player they are applying them to.

The Masters tournament has always been bigger than the players who compete in it, and, yes, that applies to Tiger Woods as well. The Masters’ leaders made their decision. Tiger made his. Now let’s put the focus back on the greatest tournament in the world.