Rules Guy, Masters edition: Revisiting Tiger Woods’ controversial drop at the 2013 Masters

At the 2013 Masters, Tiger Woods' ball bounced off the pin and into the water on the 15th hole of Round 2. What happened next was costly.

Tiger Woods and the drop-heard-round-the-world in 2013.

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While the closest thing we own to a green jacket is a chartreuse blazer with suede elbow patches, Rules Guy remains enamored of Augusta. Thus, on the 11th anniversary of the Masters’ second-most-famous rules imbroglio, involving the Tiger Woods drop heard round the world — rest easy, De Vicenzo, you’ll never be dethroned — we’ve compiled three instances where the rules of the game trended very hard. The final installment: Tiger Woods’ 2013 debacle on the 15th hole of the second round.

ICYMI: Jeff Maggert’s unfortunate self-deflection in 2003
ICYMI: Padriag Harrington’s costly wind gust


“Don’t make two errors in a row” is tried and-true golf wisdom. Tiger being Tiger, his mistakes were exceptional.

The first: after laying up on this par 5, hitting the flagstick with his wedge approach, sending the ball careening back into the pond fronting the green. (Aim two inches left!)

The second: dropping and playing from the wrong place — two feet back from where he’d originally played — to give himself a desired yardage, instead of from as near as possible to that original spot under stroke-and-distance.

Not that anyone on-site noticed in the moment. These were the days when armchair Agatha Christies protecting the game’s integrity (in this case, a former Champions Tour official) were phoning in potential rules infractions at the drop of, well, a bad drop.

The relevant rules were 26-1 (now 17.1) regarding the water hazard drop and 20-7 (now 14.7) for playing from the wrong place. And the appropriate punishment appeared to most learned onlookers to be disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Ultimately, however, the committee in charge of the competition is the final arbiter, and it deemed that Tiger should be penalized two strokes; it used the since-jettisoned Rule 33-7 to waive the DQ under the logic that it had failed to question Woods at the scoring table, despite knowing the drop was questionable.

His up-and-down from the drop, for what appeared to be 6, became a controversial 8. Woods would finish T4, four strokes behind champion Adam Scott and his caddie, Steve Williams, Tiger’s old bagman. The karmic wheel?

For more drop-related guidance from our guru, read on …

Rules Guy: When it is legal to place the ball instead of dropping it?
By: Rules Guy

On a par 3, I hit my tee shot behind an immovable structure and was granted a free drop. I made my drop, then took a practice swing — and inadvertently skulled the ball into a penalty area (specifically, a pond). With a new ball, I subsequently got up and down for par … or a 5? Should I have been penalized? Does the free drop make any difference in this situation? —Russell Nathe, via email

In point of fact, Russell, you made a rather quirky 4. Under Rule 9.4, you get a 1-stroke penalty for accidentally causing the ball to move and must replace it.

That this happened after a free drop is immaterial, and indeed you were not required to fish your ball from the penalty area if it couldn’t be quickly and easily retrieved. And Rules Guy is far too polite to tweak that old golf joke about standing too close to the ball … after you hit it vis-a-vis your pre-shot routine … but consider taking a half-step back, yes?

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