Monday, April 15, 2013

Dropping the Ball

Thank goodness we had an exciting playoff finish to the Masters on Sunday that did not involve Tiger Woods.  Up until Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera made incredible birdies on the 18th to force the playoff, the entire tournament was shrouded in the controversy over whether Tiger Woods should have been disqualified or should have just withdrawn after Friday's second round.

I think everyone is familiar with the situation.  Tiger took an improper drop on the 15th hole after going in the water.  A TV viewer called in the infraction, Tiger admitted in his ESPN post-round interview that he took the improper drop (thinking at the time it was allowed) and then we all woke up on Saturday morning thinking the number one player in the game was about to get bounced from the biggest tournament of the year.  And in retrospect, this was a perfect storm of mistakes that served to give the sport a big black eye--until Sunday's dramatics distracted everyone again.

First off, this practice of allowing fans to call in rules violations has got to stop.  I joked on Twitter Saturday morning that if other sports allowed fans to reverse bad calls from their couches, the NCAA would have needed 6.5 million phone lines to deal with all the blown calls in the men's basketball tournament. The game is played on the course, let the people on the course enforce the rules.  Joe the Rules Experts doesn't call in, this never happens.

Secondly, Tiger Woods needs to brush up on his rules.  This is his second improper drop penalty this year alone.  In Abu Dhabi back in February Tiger believed his ball was embedded in some tall grass in a hazard and that he was entitled to a free drop--which turned out to be wrong.  In that case, rules officials saw it live on TV and informed him of his two stroke penalty a few holes later.  He would then miss the cut by a stroke.  This time around, Tiger got confused by the drop rules in a yellow-marked hazard--which does allow you to drop farther back--but behind where the ball went in--not where you just hit from.  Tiger follows the rules, none of this happens. 

And finally, The Masters Committee itself has got to run things more professionally.  This is the only major that does not have rules officials walking with every group on the course.  It's Rule Committee is made up of a club members and former pros--not USGA or PGA officials.  And it doesn't have scorers accompanying groups recording every shot taken--relying instead of self-reporting of scores by the players themselves at the next tee.  So these amateur rules enforcers take the call about Tiger's improper drop, review the ESPN video and decide (incorrectly) it was okay--without ever talking to Tiger about it.  If one rules officials asks Tiger the same question Tom Rinaldi did about the drop before he signs his card--none of this ever happens.

As far as I'm concerned, Tiger should not have been disqualified--because it was the Rules Committee that "dropped the ball" on making a correct call on Friday afternoon.  Of course, if he had gone on to win his fifth green jacket on Sunday, this Two Cents would probably be all about the "Masterisk" that would be attached to that title forevermore.

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