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Golf Rules Applied By Augusta National In Tiger Woods' Drop At Masters

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TIGER WOODS
Tiger Woods takes a drop on the 15th hole behind what was reported to be his divot from his shot that went into the water during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 12, 2013, in Augusta, Ga. | AP

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- U.S. Golf Association rules applied by Augusta National Golf Club in assessing Tiger Woods a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop in Friday's second round.

THE ISSUE

26-1. Relief For Ball In Water Hazard

It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that a ball struck toward a water hazard, but not found, is in the hazard, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or

b. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped; or

c. As additional options available only if the ball last crossed the margin of a lateral water hazard, drop a ball outside the water hazard within two club-lengths of and not nearer the hole than (i) the point where the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard or (ii) a point on the opposite margin of the water hazard equidistant from the hole.

When proceeding under this Rule, the player may lift and clean his ball or substitute a ball.

THE DECISION

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.

THE RATIONALE

33-7/4.5. Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified

Q. A competitor returns his score card. It later transpires that the score for one hole is lower than actually taken due to his failure to include a penalty stroke(s) which he did not know he had incurred. The error is discovered before the competition has closed.

Would the Committee be justified, under Rule 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?

_Generally, the disqualification prescribed by Rule 6-6d must not be waived or modified.

However, if the Committee is satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules, it would be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving the disqualification penalty prescribed by Rule 6-6d. The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred.

For example, in the following scenarios, the Committee would be justified in waiving the disqualification penalty:

_ A competitor makes a short chip from the greenside rough. At the time, he and his fellow-competitors have no reason to suspect that the competitor has double-hit his ball in breach of Rule 14-4. After the competitor has signed and returned his score card, a close-up, super-slow-motion video replay reveals that the competitor struck his ball twice during the course of the stroke. In these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty and apply the one-stroke penalty under Rule 14-4 to the competitor's score at the hole in question.

_ After a competitor has signed and returned his score card, it becomes known, through the use of a high-definition video replay, that the competitor unknowingly touched a few grains of sand with his club at the top of his backswing on a wall of the bunker. The touching of the sand was so light that, at the time, it was reasonable for the competitor to have been unaware that he had breached Rule 13-4. It would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty and apply the two-stroke penalty to the competitor's score at the hole in question.

_ A competitor moves his ball on the putting green with his finger in the act of removing his ball-marker. The competitor sees the ball move slightly forward but is certain that it has returned to the original spot, and he plays the ball as it lies. After the competitor signs and returns his score card, video footage is brought to the attention of the Committee that reveals that the ball did not precisely return to its original spot. When questioned by the Committee, the competitor cites the fact that the position of the logo on the ball appeared to be in exactly the same position as it was when he replaced the ball and this was the reason for him believing that the ball returned to the original spot. As it was reasonable in these circumstances for the competitor to have no doubt that the ball had returned to the original spot, and because the competitor could not himself have reasonably discovered otherwise prior to signing and returning his score card, it would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty. The two-stroke penalty under Rule 20-3a for playing from a wrong place would, however, be applied to the competitor's score at the hole in question.

A Committee would not be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d if the competitor's failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the competitor could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card.

For example, in the following scenarios, the Committee would not be justified in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty:

_ As a competitor's ball is in motion, he moves several loose impediments in the area in which the ball will likely come to rest. Unaware that this action is a breach of Rule 23-1, the competitor fails to include the two-stroke penalty in his score for the hole. As the competitor was aware of the facts that resulted in his breaching the Rules, he should be disqualified under Rule 6-6d for failing to include the two-stroke penalty under Rule 23-1.

_ A competitor's ball lies in a water hazard. In making his backswing for the stroke, the competitor is aware that his club touched a branch in the hazard. Not realizing at the time that the branch was detached, the competitor did not include the two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4 in his score for the hole. As the competitor could have reasonably determined the status of the branch prior to signing and returning his score card, the competitor should be disqualified under Rule 6-6d for failing to include the two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-4. (Revised)

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