What will from this day forward be referred to as the “Tiger Woods Rule” has spared golf’s marquee player from disqualification from the Masters for taking an illegal drop during Friday’s second round, but the jury has come in from the court of public opinion, which believes the 14-time major champ should take himself out of play.
“Me, personally, this is dreadful,” Golf Channel’s Nick Faldo said about the ruling from tournament officials. The ruling assessed Woods a two-stroke penalty for his improper drop, but did not boot him from the proceedings.
“He really should sit down and think about this and the mark this will leave on his career, his legacy, everything. He should really sit quietly with whoever he trusts -- [agent] Mark Steinberg, a few others, maybe Lindsey [Vonn, Tiger’s girlfriend] as well -- and sit and just go, ‘Well, I would be doing the real manly thing to [say he has] broken the rules of golf.'”
Not surprisingly, Brandel Chamblee -- a regular critic of Woods -- agreed with his Golf Channel colleague.
“Clearly the right thing to do,” said Chamblee, who referred to a penalty Bobby Jones called on himself that cost him the 1925 U.S. Open. When people patted Jones on the back for what he did, Chamblee said the co-founder of Augusta National stopped them.
“‘You might as well praise me for not robbing a bank,’” Chamblee quoted Jones as saying.
Chamblee went further than Faldo in calling for Woods to DQ himself.
“If he doesn’t disqualify himself, this will cast a dark shadow over ... his entire career, for the rest of his life,” said Chamblee, who constantly blasted Woods after the golfer’s sex scandal went viral. “This is a guy that at this point knows he’s in violation of a rule and he knows how much power he has in the game and he knows the right thing to do and he hasn’t done it yet.
“And that’s sad.”
Perhaps more stunning was the reaction from Woods’ good friend, Notah Begay. After offering a bunch of double-speak about how everyone respects the tourney committee and the Augusta membership for all the iron-fisted rules they hand down -- no running or cell phones on the golf course, no dissing the “patrons” as a “mob,” Woods’ two-stroke penalty -- Begay got down to the nitty-gritty.
“The drop wasn’t even in the vicinity of where it needed to be,” Begay said, “and in accordance with the rules, that would be pending disqualification.”
Another Tiger intimate, Fred Couples, took the contrarian viewpoint. According to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands, Couples called the two-shot penalty opinion “the greatest ruling of all time.”
Couples, who will be in the final group with leader Jason Day on Saturday, explained that Augusta National deployed correctly the USGA’s “high-definition TV” rule implemented last year “to save players from themselves when they knowingly make a mistake,” Sands said.
Under the rule, players may sidestep disqualification if they are unaware they violated rules even if high-definition shows they did.
“The precedent has been set that the best player in the world...would get a two-stroke penalty and not be disqualified for making a mistake unknowingly the day before,” Sands continued. “Fred says he thinks it’s fantastic that the USGA did this, that it’s great that Augusta National implemented this rule in this particular instance, and he thinks this is a good thing for the game of golf.”
Okay, then. Tiger -- the ball’s in your court.