With just a few holes remaining in Tiger Woods' second round at the Masters, he seemed to be in a great position. He was tied for the lead with a score of five-under par, but things quickly unraveled from there.
And now, a costly decision has put him in a very precarious position.
According to Bob Harig of ESPN, Woods' pursuit of his fifth green jacket has gotten much more difficult. He has been penalized two strokes due to an illegal drop on the 15th hole during Friday's second round of play.
Tiger's third shot on the 15th was a beauty right at the flag stick, but it actually hit the pin and rolled into the water. It was a terrible stroke of luck, as the ball would have rested right near the cup or perhaps even in it had the bounce cooperated.
Rather than a birdie or possibly an eagle, Woods wound up posting a bogey. He added another bogey on the 18th hole and ended the second round three strokes behind leader Jason Day, carding a three-under par. Nobody thought anything of it at the time, but Woods' drop protocol after hitting the ball into the hazard on the 15th was actually illegal.
UPDATE: Saturday, April 13 at 12:08 p.m. ET by Mike Chiari
Pretty much everyone has offered an opinion about the penalty levied against Tiger Woods, but Woods himself has finally released a statement on Twitter. Woods may very well be upset and disappointed with the ruling, but he took full responsibility and ultimately accepted it.
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UPDATE: Saturday, April 13 at 11:05 a.m. ET by Mike Chiari
Amid plenty of outrage in the wake of the decision to penalize Tiger Woods two strokes for his illegal drop on the 15th hole during Friday's second round at the Masters, the Rules Committee has released a statement explaining its final conclusion, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Competition Committee Chairman Fred Ridley discussed the reasoning behind the two-stroke penalty:
After being prompted by a television viewer, the Rules Committee reviewed a video of the shot while he was playing the 18th hole. At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the Rules.
After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played (farther) from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.
This led to a two-stroke penalty rather than disqualification because the Woods' actions were initially determined to be legal prior to the end of his second round. That decision was changed based on Woods' comments at a press conference following the round, however.
Based on that it appears as though the correct decision was made from a rule-book perspective, but retroactively punishing players is something that could be a major topic of conversation moving forward.
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UPDATE: Saturday, April 13 at 10:55 a.m. ET by Mike Chiari
Current and former golfers continue to weigh in regarding the Tiger Woods situation. According to Rachel Nichols of CNN, Hunter Mahan was satisfied with the ruling. Many believe Woods should have been disqualified, but the fact that the infraction wasn't brought to Woods' attention makes Mahan believe otherwise.
Nichols also retweeted Ian O'Connor of ESPN. O'Connor tweeted that three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo will do the "manly thing" and disqualify himself before teeing off. That seems unlikely, but it would certainly make a bizarre situation even stranger.
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According to The Guardian, Woods admitted to dropping his ball two yards farther from the hole in comparison to where he originally shot it from. This was technically a breach of the rules, as players must take their penalty stroke "as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played."
Even so, the penalty is beyond controversial.
Woods is the No. 1 player in the world, and he was well within striking distance of winning his first major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open. He is still technically in contention, as his score of one-under par puts him five shots back of leader Jason Day, but it's an uphill climb to say the least.
The interpretation of the drop rule is discretionary, and it can be argued that Woods followed it properly. According to The Guardian, Woods played the drop from as close to the original spot as he could when taking the conditions into account.
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, Woods said.
And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop.
So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back.
Regardless of what Woods' intentions were, the decision has been made. Penalizing the best player in the world and potentially ruining his chances to win what is arguably the most important tournament in the world seems like a bad business move.
Rather than being accused of preferential treatment, though, a huge precedent has been set.
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