Wednesday 23 October 2019

Augusta officials 'right not to disqualify Tiger'

Tiger Woods in action at Augusta
Tiger Woods in action at Augusta

Phil Casey

GOLF'S governing bodies have confirmed that Masters officials were right not to disqualify Tiger Woods for signing for an incorrect score at Augusta National.

Tournament officials were alerted to the fact that Woods may have taken an incorrect drop on the 15th hole of his second round by a television viewer, but cleared the world number one of any wrongdoing and crucially failed to even inform him that there had been concerns.

Woods therefore signed for a 71 before saying in a post-round interview that he had gone "two yards further back" from where he hit his original shot after seeing it clatter into the pin and bounce back into the water. Under rule 26-1a, he was obliged to drop "as nearly as possible" to where his original ball had been played.

That would normally mean a two-shot penalty for playing from the wrong place and disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard, but under rule 33-7 the rules committee waived that sanction and penalised Woods two shots before his third round on Saturday.

In an 1,867-word statement on the issue, the R&A and USGA stated that: "Given the unusual combination of facts - as well as the fact that nothing in the existing Rules or Decisions (on the Rules of Golf) specifically addressed such circumstances of simultaneous competitor error and Committee error - the Committee reasonably exercised its discretion under Rule 33-7 to waive the penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d, while still penalising Woods two strokes under Rules 26-1a and 20-7c for playing from a wrong place.

"In deciding to waive the disqualification penalty, the Committee recognised that had it talked to Woods - before he returned his score card - about his drop on the 15th hole and about the Committee's ruling, the Committee likely would have corrected that ruling and concluded that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place.

"In that case, he would have returned a correct score of eight for the 15th hole and the issue of disqualification would not have arisen."

Despite concluding that the committee were right not to disqualify Woods, the R&A and USGA also stressed that the incident should not lessen the obligation on players to understand the rules and sign for a correct score.

The statement added: "The Woods ruling was based on exceptional facts, as required by Rule 33-7, and should not be viewed as a general precedent for relaxing or ignoring a competitor's essential obligation under the Rules to return a correct score card.

"Further, although a Committee should do its best to alert competitors to potential Rules issues that may come to its attention, it has no general obligation to do so; and the fact that a Committee may be aware of such a potential issue before the competitor returns his score card should not, in and of itself, be a basis for waiving a penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d.

"Only a rare set of facts, akin to the exceptional facts at the 2013 Masters Tournament as summarised in the previous paragraphs, would justify a Committee's use of its discretion to waive a penalty of disqualification for returning an incorrect score card.

"In recent years, the R&A and the USGA have been assessing the Rules that relate to scorecards and disqualification. As part of this ongoing assessment, and in keeping with this regular practice, the Rules of Golf Committees of The R&A and the USGA will review the exceptional situation that occurred at the 2013 Masters Tournament, assess the potential implications for other types of situations, and determine whether any adjustment to the Rules and/or the Decisions is appropriate."

The statement also clarifies that rule 33-7/4.5 was not a factor as had been originally thought in some quarters.

It added: "The decision...was not and could not have been based on Decision 33-7/4.5, a 2011 Decision that permits waiver of disqualification where 'the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules'.

"That extremely narrow exception, which relates generally to use of high-definition or slow-motion video to identify facts not reasonably visible to the naked eye, was not applicable here and had no bearing on the Committee's decision."

The so-called 'Harrington rule' was brought in after Ireland's Padraig Harrington was disqualified from an event in Abu Dhabi in January 2011. He had already signed his scorecard when a television viewer raised the issue of his ball moving as he marked it on a green.

PA Media

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