One of the many issues raised during the kerfuffle over a drop shot that nearly resulted in Tiger Woods’s disqualification from the Masters last month has finally been answered.
After learning that — gasp — a TV viewer can call in a rules violation, we now know the identity of the viewer who rang up Augusta National Golf Club on the evening of April 12. It wasn’t just any casual viewer. It was David Eger, a 61-year-old, four-time Champions Tour winner and, according to Golf.com’s inside look at a wild 24 hours at the Masters, one of “the most experienced tournament officials in U.S. golf.”
Eger, who has worked in the rules and competition area for both the USGA and PGA Tours, was watching at home in Florida when Woods’s third shot hit the pin and bounced into the water. Woods took a drop and made bogey on the par-5 hole, but a controversy arose over just how far his drop was from the spot of the initial shot, with a rule stating that it be “as close as possible.”
“I could see there was a divot — not a divot, a divot hole — when he played the shot the second time that was not there the first time,” Eger told Michael Bamberger. “I played it again and again [on DVR]. I could see that the fairway was spotless the first time he played the shot and there was that divot hole, maybe 3 or 4 feet in front of where he played after the drop.”
That’s when Eger made his call. As officials began to work the problem, Woods was finishing his round and nearing a point at which he might sign a scorecard deemed to be incorrect — which would result in disqualification of the tournament’s four-time champion. Further complicating the matter was Woods’s ESPN interview, in which he said he’d moved the ball two yards from the original divot.On Saturday, the issue was put to rest with Woods being assessed a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop, but not being DQ’ed for signing an incorrect scorecard and not withdrawing from the Masters. The No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, he finished in a tie for fourth, four strokes behind Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera. (Scott won in a playoff.) The call from Eger reached Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee and, Bamberger notes, ended up saving Woods.
The epicenter of the rules fiasco is that Woods made an incorrect drop and subsequently signed an incorrect scorecard, which is why some people think he should have withdrawn. Eger’s call, the ESPN interview, Ridley’s ill-fated review of the tape, those things all stem from Woods’s mistake. It should be noted that Eger’s call saved Woods from disqualification, because it spurred Ridley’s incorrect interpretation, which was challenged by Woods’s own comments to ESPN, which enabled Ridley to invoke rule 33-7, the one that allows wrongs to be righted. Ridley and Woods now share more than U.S. Amateur titles. They are the protagonists in maybe the most complicated chapter in the history of golfing jurisprudence.
At a press conference on Masters Saturday, on the question of whether he might have done things differently, Ridley said, “There’s not a day that goes by that there are not some things I wish I would have done differently.”