Monday, April 15, 2013

The 2013 Masters was really like no other!

It was wonderful Sunday afternoon—after spending four hours in the yard where my wife and I trimmed an overgrown forsythia (taking the clippings to the landfill), cut a few low hanging tree limbs to allow a little more sunlight into the garden, ridded a holly tree/bush of many in-the-way prickly extensions, mowed our overgrown grass combination of fescue and poa annua, and sprayed round-up here and there in the flower borders to halt the growth of weeds and rouge grasses—when, after an extensive shower, I settled into my oversize leather chair with A Big Boss Brewing Bad Penny to watch the back nine of The Masters from the Augusta National Golf Club where Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were on site (I assume) enjoying their initial tournament as the first and only female members of one of the most famous used-to-be-all-male clubs in the world.
On Masters Sunday, while the previous three rounds and the first nine holes of the final day offer interesting story lines, it is always the back nine, the inward nine, of the final round that draws the most interest. This year—with the two additional holes for the twosome of Adam Scott, the eventual sudden-death (I hate the phrase) winner who defies the USGA rules-makers with his anchored putter, and Angel Cabrera, a man after my own heart with his pick-up-the-pace style of play—it was lots of fun to watch story lines race back and forth as the final few pairings made their way to complete the world's most famous, most important and most beautiful golf tournament.
There's really no reason to get into all the back and forth details because if you're reading this edition of NC Golfer, then you probably already know how it all worked out. While it made no difference to me who of the final two won the Green Jacket and the $1.4 million that's discovered in the right inside jacket pocket as a perk of sorts, I felt a little sorry for the way Jason Day gave back to the course on Saturday (bogies at the 17th and 18th holes) and Sunday (bogies at the 16th and 17th holes) to slip out of the playoff.  Oh well, he’ll have another day as will others who fell asleep at the wrong time Sunday.
As many of those who play golf and follow the sport wondered on Sunday, what would have happened if Tigers Woods had not hit the 15th hole pin with his third shot on Saturday and then made a short putt for birdie? Or, after the ball that hit the pin caromed into Rae's Creek, what if Tiger had not dropped outside the immediate area of that third shot and been hit with a two-shot penalty a day later after he said he had made the drop two-yards back form the original spot? In a way, that was a three-shot swing for Tiger who finished 5-under par, four shots back of Scott and Cabrera. Those three shots, or just the two shot penalty, might have changed the entire day for those at the top of the leader board. Woods has an intimidating presence on the course, especially when he's near the top. I doubt Scott, Cabrera or Day had Woods in their minds as the played the final nine. I believe they are better than that and simply had their own game in their vision. (Actually I was hoping Tiger would finish two shots back of the top! That would have been sweet!)
Of course, there was a chance Woods would not (maybe should not) have been there Sunday, except for a new rule as of 2012 in the USGA Rules of Golf, leaving it up to The Committee to determine if malice was involved with the Woods-Dropping-The-Ball incident. So, with the 2013 Masters in the book, there will be continued discussion of the rules used and interpreted to allow Tiger to play Sunday instead of disqualifying him for signing an incorrect scorecard Saturday. Tiger claims to have not known the rules violation, but for someone as accomplished as Tiger, he should have. His caddie should have. Maybe his playing partner that day should have said something. Ignorance of the law is not excuse for breaking the law, but then Tiger has other issues he's skirted and gotten away with it.
Next time you're playing a golf tournament and The Committee wants to DQ you for signing an incorrect scorecard or for any other reason, just say, "I didn't know the rule, just like Tiger didn't." Hopefully the committee will not treat you any less than was the many-times-proclaimed-best-golfer-ever-in-the-world.
Now, a little language from the USGA:
USGA Rule 6-6: Scoring in Stroke Play
a. Recording Scores
After each hole the marker should check the score with the competitor and record it. On completion of the round the marker must sign the score card and hand it to the competitor. If more than one marker records the scores, each must sign for the part for which he is responsible.
b. Signing and Returning Score Card
After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the score card, sign the score card himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible. PENALTY FOR BREACH OF RULE 6-6b: Disqualification.
c. Alteration of Score Card
No alteration may be made on a score card after the competitor has returned it to the Committee.
d. Wrong Score for Hole
The competitor is responsible for the correctness of the score recorded for each hole on his score card. If he returns a score for any hole lower than actually taken, he is disqualified. If he returns a score for any hole higher than actually taken, the score as returned stands.
USGA Rule 33-7: Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion
A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted. Any penalty less than disqualification must not be waived or modified. If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this Rule.
USGA Rules Decision 33-7/4.5: Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified
QUESTION: A competitor returns his score card. It later transpires that the score for one hole is lower than actually taken due to his failure to include a penalty stroke(s) which he did not know he had incurred. The error is discovered before the competition has closed. Would the Committee be justified, under Rule 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?
ANSWER: Generally, the disqualification prescribed by Rule 6-6d must not be waived or modified. However, if the Committee is satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules, it would be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving the disqualification penalty prescribed by Rule 6-6d. The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred.
So, what do you think? Should Tiger have been given the two stroke penalty or not; should he have been disqualified or not?


  1. Problem is, if he had dropped within 12 inches, a TV view would still say he didn’t drop it close enough. It’s the Masters fault totally, they reviewed before he signed his card and said no foul. Only after Tiger said he did drop 2 yards back they took the shots away the next day….very bush league. Hitting the stick on 15 cost Tiger from a 4 to a final score of 8 for the hole. Not a Tiger fan anymore, but Augusta has a history of having problems with the rules and the reviews. Article below shows he actually did drop close enough even though he said he didn’t….what do you believe??? Interesting...

  2. Pomeranz,

    I went back and forth on what I thought should happen to Tiger as more information came into play. I agree with Nick Faldo. The ruling that he should incur a two-stroke penalty was correct and he should not be DQd. However, he should DQ himself. The Rules Committee was aware of the problem and reviewed it before Tiger finished his round. Their ruling was that Tiger make a proper drop so they did not contact him. Thus, at that time Tiger signed a correct score card. Later, the Rules Committee heard the interview where Tiger said he purposely went back two yards to make his shot easier, and that was a violation. Before last year, he would have been DQd. However, the new rule to protect the players from TV callers protects them from unknowingly signing an incorrect card when information comes in later. However, the Committee can assess a penalty, which it did. Faldo, said he did not disagree with the ruling; he just felt Tiger as a player should impose a stricter standard on himself. I agree. He would be seen in a much more favorable light for the rest of his career if he had done that, and considering the bumps his image has taken it would be a smart move in addition to being an ethical move.

    If it had been us, we probably would have hit a ball from each of the three options and taken the one closest to the pin.

  3. Jim, thanks for the article - a lot to think about. As to the hypothetical "what if" one runs into a similar situation as Tiger did, as I read Rule 33-7 each situation would be dealt with separately, and comparisons would be unusual. I suppose intent is part of the process, and intent, while germane, is very subjective. The integrity of the committee is as important as the integrity of the player.

  4. Jim,

    Decision 33-7/4.5 was quoted as the decision used to waive the DQ penalty on Tiger. I feel Tiger should have known that he could not have dropped where he did, but after what happened with his ball striking the flag stick, my mind would have went to mush also.

    The Commitee made the biggest mistake by viewing the video and deciding that his drop was OK and not talking to Tiger. Later that evening "may" have thought that they made a mistake.

    Look at Decision 34-3/1 which covers the Committee's a$$ in these errors.

    Thanks and great round at #2 Donnie Bowers

  5. Thank you Donnie. (He's a USGA Rules Official) For those who want to know:

    USGA Rules Decision 34-3/1

    Question: During the first round of a 36-hole stroke-play competition, a competitor plays a wrong ball from a bunker at the 6th hole and the ball comes to rest on the green. He then realizes that he has played a wrong ball and corrects his mistake. The competitor reports the facts to the Committee before returning his card and is incorrectly advised that he has incurred no penalty since the wrong ball was played from a hazard.

    During the second round the Committee realizes that it made a mistake and retrospectively adds to the competitor's first-round score two penalty strokes at the 6th hole, but does not disqualify the competitor under Rule 6-6d.

    The competitor objects on the ground that the Committee reached a decision on the matter the previous day and that, as Rule 34-3 states, the Committee's decision is final, it cannot now impose a penalty.

    Was the Committee's procedure correct?

    Answer: Yes. Under Rule 34-3, a Committee's decision is final in that the competitor has no right to appeal. However, Rule 34-3 does not prevent a Committee from correcting an incorrect ruling and imposing or rescinding a penalty provided that no penalty is imposed or rescinded after the competition is closed, except in the circumstances set forth in Rule 34-1b.

    Related Decision:
    34-1b/1 Omission of Penalty Stroke When Score Returned. (look that one up yourself)


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