AUGUSTA — Much of the media talk before Saturday’s third round of the Masters centered around Tiger Woods’ two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop on No. 15, and the grounds at Augusta National were abuzz with chatter on the subject.
The situation was complicated by the fact that he signed a scorecard without the penalty, which was called to the Masters’ officials attention by a television viewer.
In years past, Woods would have been disqualified, something that didn’t escape the notice of patrons on the course.
“I thought DQ was what the rule says; there may be some circumstances that we don’t know,” Brenda Pictor of Marietta, Ga., said.
Pictor clarified her stance once she heard about a new rule put in place in 2012 that says a ruling body can decide against disqualification if the golfer isn’t aware of an infraction that a TV viewer catches. In Woods’ case, the viewer called in the violation while Woods was on the course, and rules officials deemed it wasn’t worth a penalty until later review.
“So that’s fair,” she said. “I agree that he shouldn’t have been disqualified.”
Russell Gordon of Acworth, Ga., agreed with that assessment and was also among the large number of patrons who didn’t learn of the controversy until they reached the course.
“Somebody calling in, and the officials made the rule, it should stand,” Gordon said.
Of the patrons interviewed, none felt that, given the full extent of the circumstances, Woods should have been disqualified. In fact, many seemed to be more concerned about his chances to still contend for the green jacket.
“I didn’t really see what actually happened,” said Chase Grizzell of Atlanta. “Regardless he’s five back; he could come back and shoot a 66.”
Woods shot a 70 on Saturday to move within four of leaders Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera heading into today’s final round.
Even if patrons thought Woods shouldn’t have been removed from the tournament, they didn’t go completely soft on the world’s No. 1 player.
“I feel like if he broke the rule, he broke the rule, and he should be penalized,” said Steven Williams of Lawrenceville, Ga. “I don’t think he should be disqualified.”
Greg Herring of Australia didn’t address the decision to leave Woods in the tournament, but he was clear on his assessment of the shot in question.
“I’m a referee in Australia, and I think if he dropped his ball more than a club length from his oriinal spot, he should be penalized,” Herring said.
Californians Scott Sawicki and Brian Bachhuber also felt that it was Woods’ responsibility to know the rules, but they shifted some of the blame to Woods’ caddie, Joe LaCava. Bachhuber even suggested the situation would’ve turned out differently with Steve Williams, currently on Scott’s bag, still serving as Woods’ caddie. Woods famously stopped using Williams as his caddie in 2011.
“Stevie would’ve known,” Bachhuber said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.