Masters Blog: Trouble for Tiger over dubious drop

Could Tiger Woods be disqualified for an illegal drop at the 15th?

There is a storm cloud over Augusta National ahead of the third day of The Masters, and not one that involves the weather. 

At first there was a whisper, then a murmour, and then a full blown realisation that officials at the tournament would wake up this morning and have to investigate the drop that Tiger Woods took at the 15th during his second round.

The incident in question was born out of a terrible piece of luck for the current world number one. Upon playing his third to the par five 15th, Woods looked to have played one of those shots that would be perfect for any highlight reel – dialled straight at the flag and set to spin back to within feet of the hole.

Instead, the approach smacked into the flag stick square on and rebounded into the water – Tiger’s luck clearly deserting him.

But then the confusion came. Woods was left with two different options – either to play from the drop zone or proceed under Rule 26 which states, according to the R&A that:

“If a ball is found in the 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, 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.
Tiger Woods: I went back to where I was and actually took two yards further back. Woods opted to proceed under Rule 26, by dropping his ball as close to the place where his original shot was taken. He hit a second approach, incurring the one shot penalty, and managed to get up-and-down – meaning that he walked off the 15th green having dropped just one shot.

It all seemed pretty straightforward, but following his round and having signed for a score of 71, Woods said the following in his post-round interview:

“I looked over the drop area, it wasn’t very good, it was into the grain – a tough shot. So I went back to where I was and actually took two yards further back and tried to hit my shot another two yards off of what I felt I hit it”. 

And it is that quote that could potentially get Tiger in hot water. There is an old line about being careful what you say to journalists, and it may be that Woods has fallen victim to that in the worst possible way. By admitting that he took the ball another two yards back, it has brought into question whether Tiger did uphold the rule which he used for his drop. 

If Woods did deliberately drop the ball two yards further away, then he is in breech of the rule and would automatically occur a 2 shot penalty. However, having already signed for his round, Tiger would then be in breech of submitting an incorrect scorecard – something which carries an automatic disqualification penalty.

Whichever side of this debate you stand, the Augusta officials have a huge call to make this morning. 

I would not want to be in their shoes right now.

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