Tiger Woods missed the cut at the season's first tournament at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, in part because of a two-stroke penalty. With the penalty, Woods finished the second round of the tournament at three-over par.
Woods received the two-stroke penalty for taking a drop on the fifth hole after he mishit his first shot. His ball landed in a patch of sandy, vine-covered area that separated the fifth and sixth holes. Woods took the drop after conferring with playing partner Martin Keymar.
"I thought my ball was embedded," Woods told reporters after the round. "[Rules official] Andy [McFee] said that the ball wasn't embedded, because it was sandy-based."
Based on the fact that the area was considered to be sandy, the rules regarding embedded balls don't come into play. Therefore, Woods would need to be assessed a two-stroke penalty off his score because of the incorrectly taken drop.
Here is a visual from GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard:
It's clear that there is some sand in the picture, but there is quite a bit of overgrowth in the area. It's easy to see why Woods would carry out these actions the way that he did.
While the ruling seems harsh based on the picture, it's a proper interpretation of the rule. There clearly is sand in the picture underneath the vines.
What's more difficult to understand than the ruling is why Woods didn't seek out an official to get a ruling on the ball. It's obvious—based on him conferring with Keymar—that Woods wasn't completely sure. At that point he should have played it safe and tracked down an official ruling before continuing play.
Outside of the ruling, Woods didn't hit the ball particularly well as he struggled to hit the fairways. However, he did well putting, which is a nice development after his struggles last year.
There were some good signs for Woods in the two rounds that he can build upon going forward. He needs to drive the ball more consistently and continue putting well.
It has to be considered a disappointing start to the season for Woods. He may not have gone on to win the tournament, but a chance to finish strong and take something to build on would have been immensely helpful for Woods.
Instead, Woods left the Middle East with frustration over a ruling that could have been avoided if he had gotten an official ruling.