Bunker Mentality

How a TV viewer almost ruined Tiger Woods’s Masters

Bunker Mentality

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Tiger Woods takes a drop on the 15th hole after his ball went into the water. (AP)

Tiger Woods was eventually assessed a two-stroke penalty, and nearly thrown out of the Masters on Saturday because a television viewer spotted him making an illegal drop on the 15th hole of Friday's round and alerted the tournament.

Over the next 16 hours, officials took it from there, eventually ruling Woods should be penalized for dropping his ball two yards from behind its original location after a chip wound up in a pond. The ruling moved Woods' score from 3-under to 1-under heading into Saturday's round. No official saw the error in real time and if it hadn't been for the viewer there likely would've been no penalty or controversy.

"After being prompted by a television viewer, the Rules Committee reviewed a video of the shot," the Masters said in a statement.

Which begs a simple question, how does some guy on his couch advise the Masters, played at Augusta National – merely one of the most exclusive clubs in the world and host of one of the sport's grandest championships – that Tiger Woods just screwed up?

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Tiger Woods talks with an official during the third round of the Masters. (USAT Sports)

"You just call Augusta National and ask for the scoring officials," a receptionist in the press building told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday.

So the guy just called and got patched through to the actual scoring officials?

"They may have called him back, but we don't comment on that or any of the specifics of the investigation," she said.

The Masters would not reveal who the caller was, where the call came from or any other detail.

"We get dozens of these calls every Masters," Fred Ridley, Masters committee chairman, explained Saturday morning. "You don't hear about them because most of them do not amount to anything. … This is really a fairly normal occurrence during the tournament."

"I think that's just the time that we live in," he continued. "It's sort of the instant replay in football or baseball. These players are under a microscope, particularly Tiger. There are a lot of people out there that know a lot about the rules, think they know a lot about the rules."

While this sort of thing doesn't happen often, it does happen – for years, actually:

• Following the first round of the 2011 Tournament of Champions, a viewer called in a violation by Camilo Villegas. In that instance, Villegas swatted away a few blades of grass while his ball was still moving. A TV viewer noticed it, called it in and Villegas was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

• Just a few weeks later, a viewer notified European tournament officials that Padraig Harrington's ball moved when he marked it on the green. Harrington didn't assess himself a penalty and was disqualified when he signed an incorrect scorecard.

• And way back in the 1987 Andy Williams Open, viewers notified officials that Craig Stadler had placed a towel underneath his knees while playing in dewy grass. That's a penalty and Stadler was disqualified for – you guessed it – signing an inaccurate scorecard.

Just to recap, all someone has to do to report whatever violation they think may have occurred in the biggest tournament of the year is dial up Augusta National Golf Club and ask for the scoring officials?

"If you call Augusta National you will be put through to whomever you ask for," the Augusta officials said.

So there you go golf-rule hawks: +1 706 667 6000.

Dan Wetzel, Yahoo!

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