AFTER THIS, a lot of us will take a fresh look at the Rules of Golf, and that’s not a bad thing.
For me, if I was taking a drop like Tiger Woods did today on No.15, I would have, in all righteous ignorance, added “no closer to the hole” to my mental computation of where to correctly place the ball.
Of course, Rule 26-1a – which had me running to my golf bag where lives, generally unread, my copy of the Rules – says nothing about “no closer to the hole.” For Woods, he didn’t want to be closer, and his swing is calibrated so precisely that the couple yards he took behind his original spot gave him far more advantage than players like me would have gained by being that much closer.
Then again, Rule 26-1b says a player can place a ball behind the water hazard in line with where the ball last crossed the hazard line, “with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.” So, couldn’t Tiger have dropped anywhere on line with where the ball went into the drink? No, because it’s not the flight of the ball, in this case, it’s the point, after hitting dry land on the other side of the water, that the ball crosses the chalk-marked hazard line as it rolls back into the water.
Rule 26-1c (i), to further confuse the likes of me, does use the phrase “no nearer the hole,” but it’s about lateral hazards and doesn’t apply to the Tiger situation.
My assumption, then, is that by choosing to re-hit from close to his original strike (not close enough, apparently) he invoked 26-1a, rather than 26-1b.
As Fred Ridley, the chair of the Masters’ competition committees, pointed out, it only shows how good Tiger really is. Why would he give himself a couple yards back? I guess he thought if he’d swung again from the same spot he’d hit the pin all over again.
It’s pretty clear that Tiger Woods plays under a different set of circumstances than any other player. With a two-stroke penalty, rather than disqualification, did he get a ruling that might not have been given a lesser light?
The other side of the ball marker, as one good reporter pointed out, is that every shot by Tiger Woods is on TV, and thus DVR’d by millions. Other players could have made the same drop, knowingly or unknowingly, and not only would it not have been seen, there would be no video to send to Fred Ridley and his minions.
“I can’t really control what the perception might or might not be,” Ridley said this morning. “All I can say, unequivocally, is that this tournament is about integrity, our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity. And if this had been John Smith, of wherever, he would have gotten the same ruling, becaue it is the right ruling under the circumstances.”
Under the circumstances.