Woods was so unaware of his gaffe that he gave three TV interviews in which he described in detail what he thought was a smart piece of strategy but was in reality a clear violation of a rule so simple many hackers grasp it.
In fact, Woods’s candid comments were the sole cause of his penalty.
It’s hard to believe that Woods, a tour pro for 17 years and a high-level competitor for more than 25, could not know or could even become temporarily confused about where you drop a ball after you hit into water.
But it is far harder to believe that Woods would deliberately break a rule, benefit by it, get away with it, sign his card for it, stand in fourth place in the Masters after 36 holes and then voluntarily tell the world every pertinent fact that could get him penalized or disqualified from the Masters. In fact, with current data, it is impossible to believe. Tiger just screwed up.
The Masters itself was also caught in a tough spot. Its officials learned from a TV viewer that Woods might have broken a rule on the 15th, but by the time Woods reached the 18th hole on Friday, officials had decided that Woods’s drop was “close enough” to proper. So they never even notified Woods that there might have been a problem.
When Woods himself explained that he had dropped his ball two yards behind the point of his initial water-ball divot so that he would have a better yardage for his wedge shot, everything was changed. By 10 p.m., head Masters rules dude Fred Ridley (he has a title but it’s just too long to type) knew of Woods’s quotes and realized, if they were accurate, that a penalty was coming.
Ridley was also certain that a new golf rule — 33-7, created in 2011 after an incident involving Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi the year before — would come into play. For centuries, any golfer who signed an incorrect scorecard, for any reason including acts of God, was disqualified. If it was good enough for Scottish shepherds and Bobby Jones, shouldn’t it be good enough forever?
Not really. A fan watching on TV dropped a dime on Harrington, claiming his ball had moved at address. A review of high-definition TV revealed that the ball had moved “three dimples.” Harrington, after what he thought was an innocent, honest 65, discovered he’d been disqualified. To protect players from such retroactive justice — or injustice — Rule 33-7 gave tournament officials the option in “extraordinary circumstances” to penalize a player retroactively, based on new information, yet not disqualify him. After all, the scorecard he signed was accurate by the information available at that time. Ridley deemed Woods an excellent example of the case law.