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Armchair refs call in to drop dime on Tiger Woods at the Masters

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Tiger Woods ran afoul of the rules of golf but no one would have cared if two TV fans had not ratted him out.

Mike Ehrmann

This whole "Tiger Woods Rule" would never have come about but for that peculiarity in golf that allows fans sitting in their living rooms to let their fingers do the walking whenever they believe a PGA Tour player has violated a rule.

So, of course, it turns out that two remote rules officials called in -- not to CBS or ESPN, as Golf Channel's Steve Sands noted, but to Augusta National Golf Club itself -- to point out that Woods breached rule 26-1 when he took an improper drop after knocking his third shot into the drink on the par-5 15th on Friday.

"We have found out that [the issue arose] from two separate calls, from two separate viewers, at two separate times of the day," Sands reported Saturday afternoon -- hours after the story went viral and less than an hour before Woods' slated 1:45 p.m. ET third-round tee time.

Fred Ridley, chair of the Masters competition committee, backed up Sands' reporting, and noted that officials fielded such calls on a regular basis.

"We were made aware through a television viewer who had called one of our rules officials that this person had felt that Tiger had not properly proceeded under the rules when he was dealing with the unfortunate situation on 15 that he faced," Ridley said on Golf Channel. "We get dozens of these calls every masters, you don't hear about them because most of them do not amount to anything but we do get many calls each Masters and we look at each one...and when it's appropriate in many cases we review video so this is really a fairly normal occurrence during the tournament."

After reviewing the video, Ridley said officials determined Woods had not broken any golf laws, so "we did not talk to Tiger so he completed his round, signed his scorecard, and the first day was over."

Then came the second call and a message from CBS that forced Ridley and others to reconvene at the course to go over Woods' post-round remarks. Woods' comments "had created some further doubt in some people's minds as to whether or not Tiger had violated a rule...."

Seriously? "Some people" get to determine the possible outcome of a golf tourney, in this case the most prestigious major championship on the PGA Tour schedule? Well, why not?

The situation at the Masters is hardly unique. Camilo Villegas knows what can happen when TV viewers see you do something you shouldn't, as does Padraig Harrington. Now, Woods has fallen victim to what Ian Poulter referred to back in 2011 as the "snitch" factor, and that Graeme McDowell went on a tear about after Harrington's DQ at the 2011 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

What happened in the most recent case, according to Sands, was that the rules committee received the first call after Woods took his drop and reviewed the incident as the world No. 1 played the 18th. The committee determined Woods had not committed a penalty and that was that -- until a second call came in at 10 p.m. ET.

That caller, whom Sands identified as a "fan watching on TV," came after Woods' on-air interview in which he conceded he took his drop two yards away from the original spot of his shot.

All hell then broke loose, Sands insinuated, and the rest, as they say, is now firmly implanted in Masters, Augusta, and Tiger Woods lore.

Whether Woods should have called the penalty on himself, officials should have given him the boot, he should withdraw or skate on the whole thing, perhaps most can agree that rulings from afar should be disqualified from all future golf tournaments.

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