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Woods faces disqualification at Augusta Masters

Tiger Woods is in a spot of bother, amidst an alleged illegal play at the 15th hole in the second round. Ironically, Woods himself set off the allegations through his own admission to the press last night that he had stepped two yards back from the original spot to gain better position when he took the shot a second time. Ideally, Tiger should have then taken a two stroke penalty on his card before signing instead of just one. Now that Woods could be deemed to have signed an incorrect card, there is a possibility that the rules committee could be forced to disqualify the American. Amidst the uncertainty, speculation is rife and the golfing community is waiting eagerly to learn of the views of the committee that is scheduled to meet this morning to discuss the issue.

The genesis of the incident lay in Tiger’s third shot at the par-5 15th hole. Incidentally, it was a moment of sheer brilliance that is threatening to cost the world No.1, who pitched a perfect approach that bounced once, struck the pin before spinning into the water. Deciding that he was better off taking the shot again rather than risk the drop zone close to the water, Tiger apparently made an error of judgment, seeking a beneficial play.

By his own admission - “I went down to the drop area, that wasn’t going to be a good spot, because obviously it’s into the grain, it’s really grainy there. And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop. So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back,” said Woods, who managed to control the damage to a bogey. “I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit – that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back. I felt that that was going to be the right decision to take off four right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly.”

According to clause a of USGA Rule 26-1 which deals with relief for ball in water hazard -

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);

The committee will meet this morning to review the comments made by Woods along with any video evidence and official witnesses to understand the facts and circumstances relating to the incident. While opinion is divided about how the committee might chose to react, there is growing belief that they might let him go with a fine or a minor penalty. In doing so, the officials are likely to expose themselves to accusations of favoritism and kid-glove treatment to the biggest star in golf.

Considering that the incident has come to light immediately after the Masters levied a penalty on Guan Tianlang for the minor infraction of time, there are bound to be questions around their reaction towards Tiger’s act of omission. It is clear, either way, that the 14 time major winner’s actions were far more hurtful to the spirit of the game as compared to the extra time consumed by Guan in taking his legitimate shot at the 17th hole.

However, in an era when commerce drives sport, it is difficult to see the officials take a strident view against Tiger. Television channels and ticketing associates will sure be jockeying in the background to let Tiger go without any serious penalty considering their massive financial interests in the event. All eyes are on the officials to see if they play by the spirit of the game or by the weight of currency.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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