Tiger Woods won't be disqualified from The Masters

Tiger Woods pumps his fist after a birdie on the seventh hole during the second round of the Masters golf tournament Friday, April 12, 2013, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty Saturday for taking an illegal drop during the second round of the Masters. The chairman of the tournament’s competition committee said the idea of disqualifying Woods for the rules violation “was not even on the table.”

Committee chairman Fred Ridley said he felt that after reviewing the tape of whether Woods had taken a proper drop at the par-5 15th hole on Friday, and talking with the player Saturday morning, he felt Woods “fully intended to comply with the rule and play from the spot that he played his prior shot.

“I didn’t see anything and he didn’t tell me anything that would lead me to believe that he knowingly violated the rule,” Ridley said.

The committee decided to penalize Woods two strokes because of a violation of Rule 26-1(a) because he did not drop “as nearly as possible” to the original spot. He was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard thanks to Rule 33-7, which protects a player who did not know he violated a rule before signing his scorecard, and later was reported to have done so by people watching on television.

Woods’ third shot on No. 15 ricocheted off the flagstick and into the pond guarding the front of the green. After deciding against moving to a designated drop area, he took a drop that he later told ESPN was “a couple of yards” away from the original spot when he dropped to give him a little more room on the shot.

As a result of the penalty, Woods was credited with a triple-bogey 8 on the hole and saw his 36-hole score drop from 3-under par to 1-under. He started the day five strokes behind the leader, Jason Day.

In a statement released around noon on Twitter, Woods said, “I understand and accept the penalty and respect the committee’s decision.”

Despite calls from three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo and others that Woods withdraw because of the rules violation, Woods showed up at the appointed time and blasted his opening shot off the first tee at precisely 1:45 p.m. He birdied the hole.

Faldo said he felt the controversy will leave a “mark on his career, his legacy, everything.”

Speaking at a hastily called press conference, Ridley said members of his committee reviewed Woods’ drop after receiving a telephone call from a viewer and decided that Woods had acted properly. He said Woods was not informed of the review at the time he signed his scorecard because no violation was found.

However, Ridley said he received a call while at dinner Friday night to inform him of Woods’ post-round comments about his drop which “raised some concerns in our minds.” He said Woods’ representative was contact, and that the committee met with Woods around 8 a.m. Saturday.

“Tiger was very forthright in his comments and his answers to the questions that we had,” Ridley said. “Based on that, I told Tiger that in light of that information … he had, in fact, violated Rule 26 under the Rules of Golf and that he was going to have to be penalized.”

He said that since the committee decided the drop was proper during his round, then Woods was protected by Rule 33-7, which was instituted in 2012, when informed of the penalty on Saturday.

“It was really a matter of understanding what was going through his mind and what his intent was in playing his shot to determine whether he was going to get a penalty at all,” Ridley said. “At that point it was either no penalty or a two-shot penalty, but disqualification this morning was not even on the table.”

Pressed on the matter, Ridley said because the committee initially had made a decision of a legal drop, then Woods “was entitled to the benefit of that decision when he signed his scorecard” even if he did not know what it was.

“To me, it would have been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him after our committee had made that decision,” he said.

Ridley said the world’s governing bodies of the game were kept informed of the process and “are in agreement with our decision.”

In his Twitter statement, Woods said he thought his drop “was correct and in accordance with the rules.

“I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules,” he said. “I didn’t know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard.”