Tiger Woods Penalty at Masters to Be Reviewed by Rulemakers

Tiger Woods’s two-stroke penalty for a violation at the Masters Tournament and the ruling by the event’s committee not to disqualify the golfer are being reviewed by the sport’s rulemaking bodies.

The Scotland-based R&A and the U.S. Golf Association will look at the actions of the player and the tournament as part of their monitoring of the sport, the two groups said today in an e-mailed statement.

The statement didn’t include any reference to possible further action against Woods.

“In recent years, the R&A and the USGA have been assessing the rules that relate to score cards and disqualification,” the bodies said in the statement. “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.”

Mark Steinberg, Woods’s agent, said in an e-mail that the golfer wouldn’t have any additional comment on the review.

Latest Incident

The review is the latest in a series of incidents that have brought attention to the sport.

Also at the Masters, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan from China was assessed a one-stroke penalty for slow play. Yesterday, Fiji’s Vijay Singh was cleared of wrongdoing by the tour for his use of deer-antler spray, which contains IGF-1, a substance that is naturally produced by the human body and is related to growth hormone. Singh today withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“It’s certainly great topics of discussion,” Stuart Appleby, an 18-year PGA Tour veteran, said in an interview. “They are all serious topics and everyone has an opinion on all of them.”

Woods tied for fourth at the tournament last month, unable to collect his fifth Masters title, as Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the event. Woods’s decision not to withdraw was criticized by former golfers including Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion.

Pond Landing

Following the second round at Augusta, Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty by the tournament’s rules committee after he said during a press conference that he intentionally dropped his ball two yards behind the original location from which he hit it into water. It was his third shot on the par-5 15th hole, and the ball caromed off the flagstick and into a pond in front of the green.

The committee initially cleared Woods of any wrongdoing during the round after a television viewer reported what he felt to be the infraction. The incident was reviewed again after Woods said he dropped the ball further back to assure his next attempt would land short of the flag, a violation of a rule that states the ball must be dropped “as near as possible” to the original location.

Once he had been cleared to play, Woods said he never considered withdrawing.

The on-going rules discussion today prompted PGA Tour player Joe Ogilvie, a member of tour’s Player Advisory Council, to call for rules officials on the top U.S. and European professional tours to be included in such debates.

“We have amateur bodies that are making rules that basically are only being driven by the professional game,” Ogilvie said in an interview. “The professionals should at least have a spot at the table when there are rules that affect the best players in the world. The USGA and R&A would be well served if our professional officials were given a very prominent spot.”

Revised Rule

In 2011, golf’s governing bodies announced a new interpretation of rule 33-7/4.5, which covers disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard. The change applies in “limited circumstances” where disqualifications are caused by scorecard errors resulting from video review. The governing bodies today said that this rule didn’t apply in the Woods case, but that instead the committee’s error in not originally imposing a penalty allowed the player to continue.

The groups said the change addressed the situation where a player is not aware he’s breached a rule “because of facts that he did not know and could not reasonably have discovered prior to turning in his scorecard.” At the discretion of the tournament committee, the player is still penalized, but isn’t disqualified.

However, the disqualification penalty would still apply for scorecard breaches that arise from ignorance of the rules of golf.

“Given the unusual combination of facts -- as well as the fact that nothing in the existing Rules or Decisions specifically addressed such circumstances of simultaneous competitor error and committee error -- the committee reasonably exercised its discretion” by not disqualifying Woods and yet penalizing him two strokes, the governing bodies said today.

(Updates with Singh withdrawing from tournament in seventh paragraph.)
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