STANDING OVER HIS third shot on Augusta National's 15th hole, Tiger Woods had it all -- the No. 1 ranking, three wins in his previous five tournaments and a share of the 2013 Masters Friday lead. A birdie on the par 5 would have given Woods a one-shot edge. But his approach clanked off the flagstick and into the drink. And his ensuing drop? Let's just say it caused the golf world to lose its collective mind. Now, as the planet's best golfers descend on Augusta for the Masters (April 10-13), we look back at the shot -- and the drop -- that has typified Woods' major slump. -- Scott Eden
1. What are the odds of that?
It started with a stroke of bad luck. According to ESPN Sport Science's John Brenkus, the surface area of the front half of a standard flagstick is a mere 63 square inches. Accounting for that and other factors, Brenkus, along with a few Davidson College mathematicians, estimated the probability of Woods' 87-yard shot hitting the flagstick at 1 in 700. But when it did, the ball caromed into the water thanks to its 7,700-rpm spin rate. That's one and a half times faster than a Rafael Nadal forehand.
2. The view from the couch
The controversy began the moment Woods dropped his ball back into play. David Eger, a former rules expert with the USGA and PGA Tour, says he replayed the drop three times on his living room TV and noticed a difference in the gradient of the terrain under Woods' feet. Eger's theory, which he relayed to Masters officials: Woods broke Rule 26-1-(a) by failing to drop the ball "as nearly as possible" to the original shot. "It was difficult to determine how far back he was -- unless you looked closely," Eger tells The Mag. "Which is what I did."
3. A not-so-instant replay
What Eger didn't do? Pay attention to the TV cameraman, who was positioned directly behind Tiger on his initial shot but moved several feet to his right for Woods' postdrop approach. The altered perspective would, of course, make it impossible to determine the precise distance between Woods' two divots -- or even which divots Eger was seeing. Masters officials agreed: After reviewing the tape, they concluded Woods did not break Rule 26-1-(a).
4. Pops always knows best
The story would've ended there had Woods just followed his father Earl's advice for handling the media: Only answer the question you're asked. During a postround interview with ESPN, though, Woods veered off script, saying he dropped his ball "two yards further back." But what if Woods was accurately describing his intention but not what actually occurred? By the time such nuance entered the conversation, Masters officials had overruled their original ruling and assessed Woods a two-shot penalty. But wait ...
5. The proof is in the photos
The next day, The Augusta Chronicle ran side-by-side photos of Woods' two approach shots. Unlike the TV cameraman, Chronicle photog Michael Holahan didn't move between shots. His photos appear to show that Woods' second lie was only slightly behind his first -- a far cry from Woods' "two yards" admission and Eger's theory. Despite the evidence, Woods maintained that he broke the rule in his final-round press conference: "I saw the photos. It was certainly not as close as the rule says." But what else could he say? The tournament was over, and his would-be kick-in birdie was still an eight. The four-shot swing? Woods' margin of defeat to Adam Scott.