Despite all the controversy surrounding Tiger Woods' now infamous illegal drop during the second round of the 2013 Masters Tournament, the current No. 1 golfer in the world is still in position to win his fifth green jacket and take one of four more steps towards Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship victories.
Tiger rebounded twice from disappointment at the 15th hole at Augusta National Golf Club Friday. First, he ricocheted a near perfect approach shot off the flagstick and into a pond in front of the 15th green. And then, as he would later discover, he had violated a rule of the game with an improper drop following that shot. Like a prize fighter who had been stunned with a right uppercut and then pummeled again as he staggered into the ropes, Tiger refused to hit the canvas. Or, in the case of The Masters, the impeccably groomed, lush green masterpiece that is Augusta National.
Everyone has an opinion regarding the rules violation. I have mine. Yes, his drop, which was deemed to not be "as nearly as possible" to his previous shot that hit the flagstick and bounded into the water, was a violation of the incredibly complex and oftentimes perplexing Rules of Golf.
Rule 26-1 to be precise. I think we can all agree on that. Tiger even admitted it. But to those who think Tiger should've disqualified himself from the tournament—or that he received special treatment from a Rules Committee that would be willing to risk their own reputations in his favor—I don't agree.
Tiger might have signed an incorrect scorecard, which is grounds for disqualification. But, Masters officials had previously decided that no penalty, no rules infraction had been made before Tiger signed his scorecard. Tiger left the grounds at Augusta National Friday evening without any idea he had done anything wrong. Until some comments he had made in a post-tournament interview raised some question as to whether he had, in fact, made an illegal drop at No. 15.
Which he did.
But, the rules committee decided to waive the DQ under Rule 33-7, instituted two years ago. Under this ruling, a penalty of disqualification may, in exceptional individual cases, be waived, modified or imposed if the committee considers such action warranted.
Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, explained:
The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round.
Keeping Tiger in the tournament was the right thing to do, not because he's Tiger Woods and the television ratings will be much better if he is in contention. But, because it was the right thing to do.
At any rate, it's all in the past now. The final round is here. And Tiger is four shots back instead of two. He's not playing the best golf of his (so far) impressive 2013 season, but he's playing well enough to be in the hunt when the Masters really begins, on the back nine Sunday afternoon.