Saturday, April 13, 2013
Agent: Tiger 'abided by the rules'
By Bob Harig ESPN.com
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods was unaware of the rules controversy that ended up costing him a 2-stroke penalty until his agent notified him by phone early Saturday morning.
Mark Steinberg said he called Woods to discuss the situation, at which point the golfer quickly made arrangements to get to Augusta National and discuss the violation.
"He came in, didn't do it by phone, came in here and explained what happened yesterday," Steinberg said. "He was not doing any negotiating. He was coming in to explain himself. Whatever decision was going to be rendered, he was going to respectfully accept it. He abided by the rules of golf."
Steinberg said, and Masters rules committee chairman Fred Ridley confirmed, that Augusta National officials did not discuss with Woods early Friday evening a possible rules violation.
That, ultimately, is what saved Woods from disqualification.
Assessed a 2-stroke penalty before even hitting a shot Saturday, Tiger carded a 2-under 70 to improve to 3-under for the tournament.
Under a rule that was put in place two years ago, Rule 33-7, a player is not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard when it is deemed all information was not given the player.
Ridley had said earlier that Woods' improper drop on the 15th hole Friday was reviewed by the Masters rules committee but deemed to be in compliance. It was only later, after a call from television officials and after reviewing Woods' media comments Friday night, that Ridley and the committee realized Woods should be penalized.
"It would have been grossly unfair to disqualify Tiger after our committee did not give him the benefit of the decision we made while he was still playing the 18th hole," Ridley said.
"Tiger was very forthright in his comments and his answers to the questions we had. At the end of the discussion, he indicated and confirmed that he was trying to create a situation where he would effectively have a shot that was not going to go quite as far as his first shot did. He said he was going to dial it down a couple of yards and had taken an additional yard or so to try and create that shot.
"Based on his forthright and honest answers to the questions I had, we felt he had violated Rule 26 [improper drop] under the Rules of Golf. Because we had initially made the determination the previous day after reviewing the ESPN video that he had not violated the rule under Rule 33-7, that was ample reason not to impose the penalty of disqualification, but to waive that penalty and impose a 2-stroke penalty."
Steinberg said that Woods returned to his rental home and was ready to get on with the tournament, 5 strokes back of 36-hole leader Jason Day instead of 3.
"Tiger's had an amazing ability to compartmentalize and block things out," Steinberg said. "All I can tell you is I think he's incredibly focused. He's right in the middle of this golf tournament."
Ridley said Rule 33 was written specifically for such situations, and once it was determined that Woods had taken an improper drop, that disqualification was no longer in play.
As for calls that Woods should have withdrawn on his own, or that he knew he was violating the rule, Steinberg said: "He is the one who really called it on himself [by explaining the drop in media interviews], unknowingly. If he knew he had broken the rule, he would have just said I dropped it and pulled off a miraculous shot. That's where I have a disagreement with that. He's abiding by the rules of golf."