Tiger Woods should have withdrawn from the 2013 Masters.
Yes, it was more than he had to do, because the rules state that he was able to finish out the tournament, but withdrawing would have been the right thing to do.
On Saturday morning I got to my club as I do for most Saturday mornings for breakfast with my regular group. By that time ESPN and Golf Channel had already been talking about the drop. One of my good friends came in and I told him of the ruling and he immediately said that when he was watching the event he had told his wife after Tiger made the drop that it was not a correct drop. Sadly I did not get to see it live that day because I was working but I certainly saw the replay on all of the sports channels.
I, like the Masters officials, did not think anything was wrong with what Tiger had done. I was thinking that he was able to take the drop in line with the flagstick and go as far back as he wanted. The issue that I had was that I had forgotten that the ball entered the water way off to the left from the line Tiger and the flagstick were on. We cannot be sure if the Competition Committee at Augusta made this mistake as well, but it was easy to make. This all aligned with what Tiger had said in his post-round interviews saying that he moved two yards back and slightly to the left. Now looking back on it all, clearly the drop was no good.
The issue that remains after all of this is should the Masters Competition Committee have disqualified Tiger after all the information was in? I think the committee felt as though they had made the mistake of not getting the drop correct after it happened and because of this they felt they should not have disqualified Tiger. This is somewhat understandable because the committee may have felt that had their been an official in Tiger’s group they may have told Tiger he could take his drop where he did. I say this because the committee said that they reviewed the drop while Tiger was on seventeen and deemed the drop acceptable. I am making assumptions in my assessment but I think this is a logical conclusion.
The ruling that later ensued is shrouded in controversy and after pages of discussion on our forum and I am not sure it is much clearer.
Right after the ruling was made, I like most it seemed thought that Tiger was saved by Decision 33-7/4.5, better known as “The Harrington Rule.” Rule 33-7/4.5 definitely has its place in tournament golf because the quality of the television coverage is so good now that we cannot expect players to see everything. Resolution of TV coverage is only going to get better with 4K and slow-motion cameras that there must be a fall-back plan.
I would rather not get into the details of the rules because often the rules can be confusing and the point of this piece is to give a thought more on what Tiger should have done after learning about his rules mishap.
Tiger knows the rules of golf. Although in saying that he has already been penalized (for an illegal drop) once this year in Abu Dhabi, which resulted in missing the cut. Still, I doubt anyone will argue that Tiger does not know the rules. I think in this case he was frustrated by what just happened, which by the way was overwhelmingly unlucky, and make a mistake on where he should take his drop. Do I think he broke the rules on purpose, no. That is clear, he is not someone who cheats at golf.
Once Tiger knew that he had broken the rules and gained an advantage, however slim that advantage might have been, he should have told the committee he was going to withdraw. He would have said to the committee that he understood the rule 33-7 but this rule was not made for a case like his. A golfer unknowingly breaking a rule as Tiger did, should not have benefitted from 33-7.
Outside of winning I think a withdraw would have helped Tiger’s image more than a top ten. It would have been the upstanding thing to do and not marred the result. Golf is a game that is defined by the players calling penalties on themselves. Once Tiger knew that he had broken the rules and signed an incorrect scorecard he could have withdrawn and made big headlines for doing the right thing. Yes, it would have cost him a chance to win, but sent a positive message for his fans and even the folks who may have changed their mind on him after the scandal. I am someone who has started to root for Tiger and I feel his image could have been improved by the withdraw.
Photo credits: © Michael Madrid.