In Tiger ruling, the punishment fits the crime

1:28 PM, Apr 13, 2013   |    comments
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Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty for his illegal drop, but to the Brandel Chamblees of the world, the punishment wasn't harsh enough.

Chamblee, a one-time PGA Tour winner and current commentator, is arguing for a Woods withdrawal, claiming the four-time Masters champ gained a competitive advantage over the field with his illegal drop on No. 15.

Technically, Chamblee is right. Woods violated Rule 26-1 when he didn't take his drop "nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played" and he admitted it after the second round, saying he "went two yards further back and ... took or tried to take two yards off the shot."

But is disqualification or withdrawal really necessary? How much of an advantage did Woods really gain? In my opinion, the two-stoke penalty fits the crime.

In the past, this wouldn't have been an issue. Woods signed an illegal card, which used to mean disqualification. But the recently implemented Rule 33-7 (announced in August 2011) states that "a penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted."

So the Rules Committee saved Tiger from disqualification. But was their action warranted, as the rule demands?

When examining the circumstances, the answer appears to be yes.

First of all, the infraction wasn't egregious enough for the committee to take immediate action. While Tiger was still on the course, a television viewer notified Augusta National of a possible rules breach. The committee then reviewed the tape while Woods was on the 18th hole and "determined that he had complied with the Rules," per a statement from Masters officials.

So, by the Rules Committee's initial findings, Woods' card was actually legal when he signed it. It was only after a post-round interview, when Woods said he moved his drop back, that the officials again reviewed the tape and reversed their decision.

Which brings me to my second point: intent.

Yes, if Woods intentionally broke the rules in an effort to gain a competitive advantage and then lied about it on his scorecard, he should be disqualified. But that doesn't appear to be the case. If it were, why would he casually admit it on TV after the round? He was in the clear, off the course and through to the weekend just three shots off the pace.

Instead of an intentional violation of the rules, it is more likely that Woods was caught up in the moment and lapsed mentally. Keep in mind, he was tied for the lead when his stellar approach unbelievably bounced off the flagstick and rolled into the water.

And that is why Rule 33-7 makes so much sense. It saves players, under intense mental strain, from themselves. Tiger's drop didn't warrant disqualification. The two-stroke penalty gave him a triple-bogey 8 on No. 15, where he might have holed out for eagle if it weren't for that pesky flag. And it dropped him from seventh to 19th on the leaderboard.

In this case, Chamblee sounds like a relic; stodgy and pompous. Rule 33-7 is a step in the right direction and this case will likely serve as an example of how to implement it going forward.

Woods shouldn't withdrawal. The punishment fits the crime.

The Sports Network

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