Champions Tour golfer David Eger saw something rather peculiar while watching the 2013 Masters, so he watched, rewound and watched again. After coming to a conclusion that Tiger Woods had taken an illegal drop, he called it in.
Some of you might recall the now-infamous drop Woods took at the 2013 Masters just a few weeks ago, a move that captivated the nation and spurred a grand and confounding debate.
On the 15th hole during his second round, Woods smacked a wonderful shot that would soon turn into a bout of misfortune. The ball hit the pin and spiraled back off the green and into the water.
Woods took a drop, hit the ball and moved on. Most watching from home moved on as well—but not all.
According to Golf.com's Michael Bamberger, Eger started watching with Woods on 16 and noticed that he dropped a shot. Curiosity motivated the golfer to rewind his DVR to the previous hole, where he noticed the drop off 15.
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. I played it again and again. I could see that the fairway was spotless the first time he played the shot and there was that divot hole, maybe three or four feet in front of where he played after the drop.
Bamberger is careful to remind at this point about golf's Rule 26-1-a, which states a golfer can take a drop "as nearly as possible" to the previous spot of the ball. Of course, that wording, as Bamberger notes, is as exact or vague as you wish to make it.
Eger then did what many in the audience probably thought of doing but had no way of going about it: He called a guy who might know about such things.
He scrambled to bring the drop to the officials' attention before Woods signed a scorecard, because Eger was out for fair play, not to get Woods banned from the tournament.
He didn't have the number to the Masters' competition committee chairman, Fred Ridley, but he did have the number to someone who might be close by: Mickey Bradley, a PGA Tour official Eger knew was at the tournament.
While Ridley had already left the grounds for the day, he made the necessary connection. Bamberger explains:
Bradley immediately called Ridley and Russell, the veteran PGA Tour administrator who is on the three-man Masters competition committee that is chaired by Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and USGA president. Bradley also forwarded Eger's text to Russell and Ridley. In his text, Eger wrote that Woods "didn't appear to play by Rule 26-1-a." He wrote that he "appeared to be 3-4 feet back" from his divot mark.
Bradley forwarded Eger's text message at 6:59 p.m.
Tiger was still on the course.
Ridley would eventually look at the footage and offer that Woods was closer than the three-to-four feet offered in the previous text.
However, things were further complicated when Ridley was later informed of candid remarks by Woods to reporters that he purposely took a drop behind his divot to get a better shot. While that is clearly not the admission of a man trying to pull a fast one, it sullies the suggestion the golf star took a valid drop.
One two-shot penalty later, and the world demanded to know why Woods wasn't thrown off the tournament altogether.
Bamberger explains further:
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' 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' own comments to ESPN, which enabled Ridley to invoke Rule 33-7, the one that allows wrongs to be righted.
CBS Sports reports Rule 33-7—for those who haven't already pored over this minutiae weeks ago—states, "A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted."
And so the man who started a bizarre debate was the same man who saved Woods from outright disqualification.
Now, Bamberger makes a great point in his column: On one hand, you have Eger, who understands the very core of golf is the faith fans and other competitors have in the legitimacy of scorecards. On the other, you have the need to protect the player.
In this case, it seems to have worked out that way. My issue, if we are concerned about the plight of a specific golfer at Augusta, is the acceptance of calls from viewers at home.
It's obvious Woods and other more popular golfers are seen far more on TV than other lesser-known competitors. While the Masters doesn't employ officials to walk with every group, the only golfers who are visible each and every shot are those like Woods.
It seems Augusta must go the way of every other tournament and have officials with each group, because I will assure you that Joe Nobody teeing off with no cameras around is not getting phone calls about his tenuous drop.
Finally, we get to peek through the curtain and find the man behind the phone call. Now we can put this whole confusing mess behind us. Right?
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