Tiger Woods received a two-shot penalty rather than a disqualification from Masters officials for his drop at the 15th hole during Friday's round.
In what clearly could have been the most explosive incident in golf since Tiger crashed his SUV into that fire hydrant, the 14-time major champion gets to play on in his effort to get a step closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors. Woods entered the week as the prohibitive favorite to win the tourney after starting the 2013 season on a serious roll, with three PGA Tour wins in five events.
We’ll have to wait and see what the close call does to Woods’ confidence and determination going forward as he starts his third round on Saturday afternoon.
Here’s how it all went down. As Saturday morning began -- and after the issue exploded on Twitter late Friday night -- officials were reviewing Woods’ drop on the 15th hole after his third shot to the green on the par-5 15th hit the flag stick and caromed back into the water.
By his own admission, Woods took a drop two yards back from his original spot, which would violate USGA rule 26-1.
Rather than hit his ball in the drop zone, Woods returned to the spot from which he hit his shot and, he said during his post-round press conference, stepped two yards back and dropped his ball.
While he stuck the shot in close enough for a virtual tap-in for bogey, USGA rule 26-1 states that Woods should have taken a drop as close as possible to where he hit his first approach shot.
The critical issue was whether Woods took an illegal drop and then signed an incorrect scorecard, which would automatically disqualify him from the tournament. The drop issue, however, was more complicated, and that was whether he took his drop too far from his original spot and/or if he failed to keep the point at which the original ball crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot where he dropped the ball. In the latter case, he could have dropped the ball as far behind the water hazard as he chose.
His penalty shot clanged the stick and bounced to the left of the original line, which is why it appeared that officials were reviewing the "b" provision.
Here’s what Tiger had to say after his round:
"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. And that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back. I felt that that was going to be the right decision to take off four right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly."
As Woods said after carding a 1-under 71, or what everyone believed to be a 1-under 71 on Friday, "Rules are rules."
The irony was, Tiger was talking about 14-year-old Tianlang Guan, whose slow-play penalty has become a footnote to perhaps the biggest controversy in the history the Masters.