AUGUSTA, Georgia (AFP) –
Tiger Woods was hit with a two-stroke penalty in a dramatic start to the third day of the Masters at Augusta National on Saturday with some calling for his disqualification.
The world number one was penalised for an improper drop taken at the 15th hole in Friday’s play when his approach to the 15th hit the flagstick and spun back into a water hazard.
Woods, seeking a 15th major title and a fifth Green Jacket, opted not to use the drop zone but instead to take a drop as near as possible to where he had hit his shot.
Initially he was deemed to have properly done that, but on review, following comments made by Woods in a TV interview, it transpired that he had not.
Woods, in a series of Twitter postings, issued a statement about his version of the situation Saturday before his third round began.
“At hole #15, I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules. I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules,” he wrote.
Rules Committee chairman Fred Ridley said that an initial review had concluded that Woods had “behaved appropriately” but that following comments made by Woods it was deemed that he had made an honest mistake.
Other pundits said that Woods should have been disqualified and that failing that he should take the decision to disqualify himself.
The two-stroke penalty turned what could have been a birdie four into a triple-bogey eight and left him mired back in the chasing pack, trailing leader Jason Day of Australia by five shots.
Day, seeking to become the first Australian to win the Masters, shot a day’s best 68 on Friday to take the lead with 1992 champion Fred Couples and another Australian, Marc Leishman, tied for second place on five under.
Argentina’s 2009 Masters winner Angel Cabrera, US veteran Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker shared fourth place a further stroke back and there were 27 players at or under par within six strokes of the lead.
Day, who tied for second at Augusta National two years ago on his debut, said that he needed to stay in the moment and not let the pressure of leading the Masters get in the way.
“Obviously there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders, being from Australia and no Australian has ever won the event,” he said.
On Saturday, Day will partner 53-year-old Couples, a huge favorite with US golf fans and a regular contender at the Masters, placing in the top 15 for the last three years.
“Just an amazing guy,” Day said of the American. “A guy, I’m not too sure how old he is, he’s in his 50s, but the guy can still move the ball a long, long way, can still hit great shots.
Couples said he simply did not know whether he would stay the course mentally and physically over the weekend’s 36 holes.
“Am I good enough to play four good rounds in a row on a course like this? It didn’t happen last year,” he said.
“I was four over pretty fast on Saturday, which was a real bummer. And then on Sunday, you know, I played well enough to finish in a good spot.
“But you know, when I get to be a certain age and I don’t start driving it where on the last hole I have a four- or five-iron in there, it’s going to be impossible for me to play well here, physically impossible.”
A total of 61 players made it through to the weekend and by far the most surprising was 14-year-old Chinese schoolboy Guan Tianlang, the youngest player by far in Masters history.
Guan was controversially hit with a one-stroke penalty for slow play when he was on the 17th hole on Friday and he was left hanging for several hours uncertain whether he would become the first player from China to make the cut.
Eventually, he squeezed in to the weekend, but he found it tough-going as he stood at four over for the round through 14 holes.
Among the early starters on Saturday, South African Tim Clark was first to make a move going out in 31 to get to three under.