Woods met with officials early Saturday at Augusta National regarding his drop on the 15th hole during the second round. After bouncing his third shot off the flagstick and into a lateral hazard fronting the green, Woods returned to the spot from where he’d originally played to hit his fifth shot.
At issue is how close Woods dropped to the original spot of play.
“I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, it's really grainy there. And it was a little bit wet,” Woods said. “I went 2 yards further back and I took, tried to take 2 yards off the shot of what I felt I hit.”
Under the Rules of Golf, a player must drop nearest to the spot of the original shot in that situation and the television replay of the drop shows Woods playing his fifth shot a few feet behind that location.
Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty, which means he made a triple-bogey 8 on the 15th hole, dropping him to 1 under par and five strokes off the lead.
Woods is not being disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard under Rule 33-7, which states, “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the committee considers such action warranted.”
Officials were made aware of the potential violation by a television viewer who called in. They reviewed the video of the drop while Woods was playing the 18th hole and determined he had complied with the rules.
“The rule doesn’t prescribe what is right and what is wrong; in my best judgment at the time Tiger had complied with the rule,” said Fred Ridley, the tournament’s rules committee chairman. “Having determined there was not a violation we did not talk to Tiger.”
After signing his scorecard, Woods explained his actions in his post-round interview, and Ridley was recalled to the club at about 10 p.m. ET. About 8 a.m. Saturday morning officials met with Woods at the club and reviewed the incident again.
“Tiger was very forthright and at the end of the discussion he confirmed he was trying to create a situation that was further from the hole,” Ridley said. “Based on that I told Tiger we felt he had violated the rule and would be penalized.”
Woods was not disqualified, however, since officials had initially reviewed the incident.
“Under Rule 33-7 there was ample reason not to impose the penalty of disqualification,” Ridley said. “Committees make mistakes sometimes. I think he’s entitled to protection.”
Woods later tweeted a response to the decision: “I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules. I didn't know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard. After discussing the situation with them this morning, I was assessed a two-shot penalty. I understand and accept the penalty and respect the committees' decision.”
The decision immediately drew criticism from fans and longtime observers.
“Me personally, this is dreadful,” Nick Faldo said on Golf Channel. “I think Tiger would gain massive brownie points if he stood up and said, you know what, boys, I broke the rule.”
Officials did not re-pair after the ruling, which means Woods teed off for Round 3 at 1:45 p.m. ET with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who is 2 under.