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Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Updated: April 3, 1:26 PM ET
Tiger's fateful drop, one year later

By Bob Harig

From the first wedge shot that struck the pin, to the second one that stopped a few feet from the hole, to the botched ruling and the frenzied aftermath, you can look at the situation a year later and simply surmise that Tiger Woods had some terrible misfortune.

How else do you explain hitting the flagstick and bouncing into the water from 78 yards when Woods rarely hit the ball that close from that distance?

Or, after a penalty drop, hitting just as close, leading to the possibility of a rules infraction, spotted by television viewers?

Or that those viewers, including a noted former rules official, David Eger, were not enough to sway Augusta National's rules committee into discussing the matter with Woods before he signed his scorecard?

Or that Woods, normally brief with his answers, would describe the second shot in great detail, saying he went "2 yards further back" and tried to take "2  yards off the shot," -- and, sure enough, hit it tight again.

Or that, due to an admitted error by the Masters rules committee, Woods' signing of an incorrect scorecard would not lead to disqualification?

Start with the 60-degree wedge shot from 78 yards, which would have set up a birdie to take the lead during the second round of the 2013 Masters. Woods watched in dismay as the ball hit the flagstick, then caromed backward into the pond that fronts the 15th green.

"It was terribly unlucky, obviously," said Luke Donald, who played with Woods that day.

Unlucky that it hit the flagstick.

Unlikely in that Woods' average proximity to the hole from that distance last year was just 18 feet, 9 inches.

On approaches from 75 to 100 yards, Woods ranked 139th on the PGA Tour. And in 2012, he wasn't much better, with his approaches from that distance averaging 17 feet, 1 inch to rank 86th.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods was left scratching his head after clanging a 78-yard approach shot off the flagstick and into the pond fronting the par-5 15th hole during the second round of the 2013 Masters.

And yet, Woods hit it close not once, but twice.

What if the second shot had landed 10 feet from the hole, would anyone have even noticed the improper drop was not "as near as possible" to the original spot.

In the scoring room after the round, Woods was there with Donald and Scott Piercy, the other player in the group. At no time did any discussion of a rules infraction occur. Woods shot 71, signed his card, it was attested and he was 3 shots out of the lead.

What if Masters officials had presented him with the video of his drop in question? Perhaps he is assessed a 2-stroke penalty right there, avoiding all the drama that ensued on Saturday.

But what if the conversation led to no penalty? Not everyone feels the video definitively shows that Woods took an improper drop. It is more his words, the "2 yards back" statement made to the media that led to the penalty. But that was said after he finished his round. What if Woods didn't use that terminology in his discussions with Augusta National officials?

Two yards is 6 feet, and you can argue that his drop does not appear to be that far back. Rule 26-1-a states you must drop "as near as possible" to the original spot. Six feet is deemed not close enough, but is 3 feet? 4 feet?

Woods was unlucky that the issue was not discussed before he signed his card, because if Masters officials -- who said they reviewed the video and decided there was no penalty -- had presented it to Woods and let him sign his card, the decision then would have been final. No penalty at all.

It was only after Woods' comments to the media that it became an issue after the fact.

And that led to a frenzied Saturday. Woods had met with Augusta National officials early in the morning to go over the situation, and they told him that he would remain in the tournament due to their error in not discussing the possibility of a penalty the day prior. They explained Rule 33-7, a little-known regulation that allows for a player to not be disqualified if a committee was in error.

Typically, because Woods had signed his scorecard, he would have been disqualified because the penalty strokes had not been added. But the Masters rules committee waived the disqualification and assessed the 2-stroke penalty under that rarely used Rule 33-7.

This, again, was unlucky for Woods in that word leaked he was still in the tournament. It appeared, without the proper explanation, that he was getting a break. That news conference did not occur for another two hours, leaving many to speculate that Woods shouldn't be in the tournament, that he should withdraw.

The next day, the Augusta Chronicle published side-by-side photos of the two shots Woods hit from the 15th fairway, making the argument that perhaps Woods did drop within the proper area. At the very least, it speaks to the fact that there is some debate.

Longtime PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul said the Augusta Chronicle photos were inconclusive to him but that the "damning evidence [was that] Tiger said he went 2 yards back."

When asked about the photos after the final round last year, Woods acknowledged that he saw them, but would not be drawn in. "I was behind it," he said of where he dropped his ball.

"One, 2 yards. But it was certainly not as close as the rule says," he said after tying for fourth.

The rule says "as close as possible."

Is one yard close enough?

Who knows, but it's fair to say, at the very least, that Woods met with some bad luck.