Apr 12, 2013

Don't Drop the Ball, Augusta

On a day that so much attention was given to a rules infraction, it’s another rules infraction that everyone should be talking about.

We all know that 14 year old Guan Tianlang, competing at a level far beyond his age, was assessed a 1-stroke penalty for slow play. While basically nobody liked this ruling or agreed with it, it was technically correct.

USGA Rule 26 governs drops when a ball is in a water hazard. Per this rule, a player can replay the shot from “as nearly as possible from the spot from which the original ball was last played.” A player can also go back as far as he’d like keeping the flag and the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard in line.

When Tiger Woods hit his approach into hole 15, his ball caromed off the flagstick and went into the water hazard near the front-left portion of the green. Per Tiger’s post-round comments, he then went back to where he played from, but went 2 yards farther back. When he did this, I tweeted “Whe did TW's ball last cross the margin of the hazard? Near the bleachers. Shouldn't he have dropped on that line, not the line he did?”

Clearly, Tiger could have dropped from his original spot, but admitting that he dropped 2 yards farther back eliminates the “re-hit” drop option from consideration. The only other option he had was to keep the point where the ball last crossed the margin in line with the flag.

As I stated above, the ball bounced off the stick and rolled off the front-left portion of the green and into the hazard. That is the point the ball last crossed the margin of the hazard, and that is the controlling point for the line Tiger needed to take his drop from.

It’s absolutely within the realm of possibility Tiger just assumed his ball crossed the hazard on the line he originally hit it (it did, at first), but that line does not control where you take your drop. Check out the last paragraph of this Rules Decision:

“If a ball last crossed the margin of a water hazard as described in the situation above, it appears that the ball crossed the margin of the hazard three times (e.g., first, the initial time it crossed; second, when it crossed over the hazard onto land; and third, when the ball rolled back into the hazard). So when the Rule states that the ball must be dropped “keeping the point where the ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is to be dropped,” it is referring to the third (final) time. It is the reference point for the 26-1b option only.” From http://www.usga.org/ourexpertsexplain.aspx?id=2147496891

On a day that rules were being enforced, the Officials might want to go have a look at this one.


  1. I think he "thought" he was okay under 26-1(b) and was able to go as far back as he wanted behind his original lie. The problem is that he was actually operating under 26-1(a) which doesn't provide that same option. It clearly states that if he is going to hit from that lie, it needs to be "as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played." This would mean that he signed an incorrect scorecard and is DQ'd. I agree that it "feels" different because the offending party is Tiger, but if we were talking about ANYONE else, it wouldn't even be up for conversation. This is a pretty clear rule violation. (And things like this have happened many times in the past, television viewers calling in, statements used against a golfer, etc.) Bye bye Tiger. Sorry.

  2. And therein lies the difficult situation when it comes to enforcing the rules here. DQ Tiger and it's a PR scandal. His water-carriers in the media will gladly let this overshadow the tournament. CBS will complain about their lowered ratings. And because it's a technicality of golf, it will never be properly understood by the casual fans.

    Except, the rest of us know that if this were Scott Stallings or Charlie Beljan, he'd have his crap packed and be on the plane home with a fat DQ tonight. Don't DQ him and then will come the complaining that the tour engages in open and blatant favoritism for this creep. Trust me. I'll be leading the way.

  3. Well, I have heard the Championship Committee has deemed it not to be a violation, and the Decision of the Committee is final, even if it is wrong.

    However, (at least based on Tiger's comments) he CLEARLY and INTENTIONALLY dropped other than in accordance with the Rules (i.e. 2 yards BEHIND the spot from which he last played, rather than as near as possible to the last spot). If these are indeed the facts, Tiger owes it to the game and its history to Withdraw or Disqualify himself.

    1. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for TW to do the honorable thing.

    2. Oh bullshit, Tiger 'intentionally' violated the rules? Ridiculous. Tiger would NEVER knowingly take a dumb chance like that, when the benefits outweigh the cons by so little. Maybe if the guy was a rookie, this argument would be reasonable...
      Remember his initial shot was close to perfect disregarding the horrible bounce. So why would he move himself two yards back? It was a moment of frustration and perhaps he wasn't thinking clearly. But that does not warrant getting DQ'd from the Masters. I hope what you're saying is true, that they will not DQ him. As for withdrawing himself, it is absolute nonsense. It is a complicated rule and he did not benefit himself by taking the shot from two yards farther back.
      Rules are rules, I get it. But no need for a DQ to the biggest draw in professional golf here. It didn't make it any easier for him. Cut the bullshit.

  4. Yeah good luck waiting for Woods to ever do an honorable thing, POS that he is.

  5. Of course he benefited by going two yards further back as it allowed him as he said himself to play the same shot knowing the end result would be improved....he has to go if not by the committee then for the good of the game and his personal profile by himself. I am not holding my breath though

  6. Here is what I think the only thing Augusta can do now: they have to define what "as nearly as possible" is. If they deem 2 yards farther back is within that guideline, then TW is ok. If they deem that it is not, then TW probably has a problem. If it was not ok, then he probably played from an improper spot and signed an incorrect card.

  7. If I was a fellow player at Augusta and hit the ball in a hazard this weekend I would exploit the new interpretation of this rule to its fullest extent. What is the tournament committee going to do?