Ninety-three golfers played in the 2013 Masters. Each one played 18 holes stretched over an area of 350 acres at the Augusta National Golf Club. It took about five hours for each player to complete his round, which consisted of between 66 and 85 strokes. A total of 61 players made the cut and played all four rounds. The other 32 competitors played two rounds each. All told, these 93 golfers took 22,884 strokes. Of all the 22,884 swings at a golf ball, only one player had each and every one of his swings recorded by television cameras. That would be Tiger Woods. No surprise there. No other golfer was subjected to this intense and all encompassing surveillance. Again, no surprise there. That's part of being Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest golfer who's ever played the game.
In addition to the "authorized" rules officials who carefully examine every move Woods makes on a golf course, we must never forget -- we are all officials! Yes, that's right. All the millions -- or any single one of us -- watching on television can apparently pick up a telephone, dial The Masters Rules Committee and register a complaint about a rules violation. And, believe it or not, those phone-in interpretations will be given the same full investigation as if they came from an on-course, authorized rules official. Makes no sense to you. Me too. But it's true -- We are all officials!
Worse yet and the greatest injustice, Tiger Woods is the only golfer who must suffer this nonsense. Why? Because every one of his shots is recorded for TV. Sandy Lyle also played in The Masters. He hit the ball 297 times. He earned $18,320 in prize money. How many of his 297 swings were televised? None is a good answer. Along the way, did Lyle violate any of the Rules of Golf, innocently otherwise? Nobody knows, do they? More importantly, The Masters champion, Adam Scott, hit his ball 279 times in regulation play. About 200 of his swings were not on TV, live or recorded for replay. Scott won first prize worth $1,140,000. Angel Cabrera tied for first with 279 strokes. After losing the playoff, he won $864,000 in prize money. Like Scott, more than 200 of Cabrera's shots failed to be taped by television.
How many times over four rounds of golf and 279 strokes did Adam Scott or Angel Cabrera break one or more of the Rules of Golf, innocently or otherwise? Nobody knows. How could they? So, of course, nobody called-in.
Tiger Woods alone played in the unforgiving glare of live TV or the certain taping of every shot he hit. And, as a result, some TV viewer somewhere was able to make a telephone call that eventually resulted in a 2-stroke penalty for Woods. No other player carries such a burden or fears such a result. The fact that The Masters, or any PGA tournament, allows such absurdity to rule their game is flabbergasting. Can you call into Major League Baseball and say that a strike was really a ball -- because you saw it on TV! -- and have MLB change the outcome of a game? Can you call the NFL and say a lineman was holding on a touchdown pass that may have decided the Super Bowl -- because you saw it on TV! -- and have the NFL go back and change the score? That would be plain crazy, right? Why then does golf suffer this foolishness, and do it so eagerly? What happened at The Masters is enough to make a real golf fan stop watching.
Augusta National and The Masters have no credibility left. And the same may be true for all of professional golf if they don't put a halt to the travesty that makes millions of TV viewers de facto rules officials.
First, let's deal with the facts, as uncomfortable as they may be for many Tiger haters. During Friday's second round of the 2013 Masters, Woods did hit his third shot from the fairway, on hole #15, and that ball struck the pin, bounced backwards and rolled into a water hazard. By rule, Woods selected the option of dropping a new ball at the spot from which he hit his original shot. Rule 26-1a calls for such a drop to be "as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played." Rule 26-1a does not specify a number of inches or feet. It offers no guidance as to how far from the original spot is too far and would result in the imposition of a penalty. After dropping, which counted as stroke #4, Woods hit his ball to the green and made his putt for what he counted as a bogy 6. While it is true that most often when a ball hits the pin it drops and comes to a stop on the green not far from the hole, luck -- good and bad -- play an important role in every round of golf. Instead of a probable birdie 4, and the lead position in the tournament at that moment, Tiger had scored a 6 and lost a stroke against par. These are the actual facts of his play.
It would be almost an hour before anyone in authority questioned Woods' adherence to the rules. In golf the player himself is the first rules official, often calling penalties against himself even when the infractions are unseen by anyone else. Tiger did not think he had violated any rule, so of course he called no penalty on himself. The next line of rules defense is the playing partners. Woods played that round of golf with two other competitors. Neither of them raised any questions about his drop on #15. They could have, and by history, if they felt a violation had occurred they would have. The final and most official action is reserved for the two rules officials who are stationed at every hole at The Masters. There were two "official" officials only yards away from Woods with a clear view of each and every shot he took on that hole. Neither of these officials said a word to Woods or reported a possible problem to their supervisors. Tiger Woods' play on the 15th hole was officially sanctioned as it occurred. Therefore, he took his bogey 6 and moved on to the tee at the next hole.
Meanwhile, one of millions of TV viewers apparently made a phone call to officials at The Masters claiming that Tiger Woods had improperly dropped his ball on #15. This TV viewer said Woods had broken Rule 26-1a. The punishment for breaking this rule is a 2-stroke penalty. This TV viewer insisted that Tiger should have a score on #15 of 8, not 6 strokes. The official Rules Committee at The Masters immediately investigated this claim as Woods was still on the course. Woods was unaware of any inquiry. The Committee, on its own in private, reviewed the TV replays for both shots Woods hit to the green at #15. The Committee's judgment was -- Tiger had not broken Rule 26-1a. No infraction had occurred. No penalty was assessed. No action whatsoever was taken. The matter was settled.
Woods completed his round and signed his scorecard with a 6 listed as his score on hole fifteen. Tiger then went on TV for a brief interview. In response to a question about his bad luck on the fifteenth hole, he told ESPN he had dropped his ball "two yards" from his original shot. Yes, that's what Tiger said. It was not an admission since he thought it had been a perfectly legal drop and nobody had questioned it.
But did he really drop his ball "two yards" from the original spot? The ESPN replays seem to show the drop was indeed a few feet, maybe 5 or 6 feet behind the original spot. However, the ESPN camera was in two different places itself -- one for the original shot and another for the shot of the dropped ball. So, the replays -- whatever you think they show -- are incompatible and technically inaccurate. Nevertheless, the Rules Committee watched the TV replays and ruled that no violation had happened and no penalty was in order. Later, nearly at midnight and based on Tiger's ESPN interview -- not his actual play on the course -- they changed their decision, ruling now against Tiger.
Now, we have photographic evidence that shows Woods' drop was not "two yards" from his original spot -- even if Woods himself thought it was. Look at these photos from The Augusta Chronicle, taken by a photographer who stood in exactly the same place for both photos and both of Tiger Woods' shots.
No sport can let the fans; in the arena; at the ballpark, or watching on TV officiate the game -- not as its being contested and not afterward via a phone call. That's chaos. It is time for golf, if it wants to be taken seriously, to come to its senses.
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