As the golf world sits on the edge of its proverbial seat awaiting a decision on Tiger Woods' future at the 2013 Masters, armchair Rules Officials have taken to Twitter to seek clarification on this issue.
It would appear that Tiger has two "outs" thanks to some interesting language in the Rules of Golf. Specifically, Decision 26-1/17 and Rule 33-7. (Note: "Decisions" are meant to be a type of addendum to a rule)
First, Decision 26-1/17, as pointed out by one Twitter follower:
Point Where Ball Last Crossed Margin of Lateral Water Hazard Determined and Ball Dropped and Played; Point Then Proves to Be Wrong Point
Q.In the circumstances described in Decision 26-1/16, what is the ruling if A, having dropped a ball in a wrong place, plays it before his error is discovered?
A. Player A must continue play with the ball played from a wrong place, without penalty. Applying a penalty under Rule 26-1 for playing from a wrong place (see Rule 20-7) is not appropriate. Otherwise, a competitor would risk incurring a penalty every time he makes an honest judgment as to the point where his ball last crosses a water-hazard margin and that judgment subsequently proves incorrect.
The issue with this approach is that Tiger would have to change his tune on what actually happened during the round. He has given no indication that another player approached him immediately following his third shot to inform Tiger of his error.
33-7. Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion
A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.
Any penalty less than disqualification must not be waived or modified.
If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this Rule.
In other words, Augusta Rules Officials have the discretion to determine if disqualification is appropriate in this case. Depending on your stance on this issue -- and on Tiger Woods in general -- this is going to be a very messy Saturday morning.