On Friday, Tiger Woods made a gigantic blunder in applying the rules of golf, a brain cramp unworthy of a veteran pro.... But his subsequent mistake, taking an improper drop, ultimately cost him two shots and will haunt and may doom his chances to win this Masters.
But that’s all he did wrong.
Woods was so unaware of his gaffe that he gave three TV interviews in which he described in detail what he thought was a smart piece of strategy but was in reality a clear violation of a rule so simple many hackers grasp it.
In fact, Woods’s candid comments were the sole cause of his penalty.
It’s hard to believe that Woods, a tour pro for 17 years and a high-level competitor for more than 25, could not know or could even become temporarily confused about where you drop a ball after you hit into water.That's what Woods and the Masters officials want you to think, that Woods's self-incriminating statement is evidence that he didn't realize he'd done something wrong. But there's another interpretation: Woods made that statement to manufacture the evidence that is being interpreted to mean that he wasn't aware of the rule. He was playing dumb to avoid disqualification. Why assume dumb? I assume smart, especially since he had a lot of time to think about it, he has advisers, and it's in the interest of the Masters to keep him in the tournament for the ratings.
But it is far harder to believe that Woods would deliberately break a rule, benefit by it, get away with it, sign his card for it, stand in fourth place in the Masters after 36 holes and then voluntarily tell the world every pertinent fact that could get him penalized or disqualified from the Masters. In fact, with current data, it is impossible to believe. Tiger just screwed up.
Here are Bill Pennington and Karen Crouse in the NYT, explaining how the officials arrived at the decision to regard this signing of an incorrect scorecard as "exceptional," thus avoiding disqualification:
A friend of a rules official saw something on television that looked improper, an illegal drop by Woods after his ball plunked into a pond at the 15th hole.It's this time lapse that made me suspicious. The officials considered the matter, and said there was no violation, except that there was. An entire hour passes, after which Woods comes out and says something that sounds like he's casually recounting the set of events and he drops in there the statement that makes it clear he violated the rule. The fact that people like Boswell leap to read Woods's statement to mean that he didn't know he was signing an incorrect scorecard is why it could have been a brilliant scheme to plan exactly that statement in the hour that Woods had to think about how to handle the problem.
Masters officials would not reveal the identity of the texter, but the claim was brought before the Masters rules committee, which decided there was no violation. Then, about an hour later, Woods inadvertently implicated himself, saying that before dropping the ball he had taken two steps back, which was not permitted under the circumstances.
But you may ask: What about the fact the Masters rules committee had told him they'd seen no violation? I don't know what they told him. I only know what we were told, and I understand the motive for them to collude with Woods and his advisers and I know what happened an hour later.
Back to the NYT:
The process for Saturday’s ruling might have been especially delicate; removing Woods from the Masters could have ruined TV ratings and deprived the world’s top-ranked player of his best chance in several years to win his 15th major championship."Delicate" is a word. "Corrupt" is another.
But Masters officials said neither Woods’s popularity nor his pursuit of history was a factor. They had absolved him of wrongdoing on Friday; a day later, they said they could not impose the harsh penalty that goes with signing an incorrect scorecard — disqualification — because their earlier decision mitigated his culpability.In my conspiracy theory, the officials knew on Friday that they needed to disqualify him, but they didn't want to lose him, and they created a time window that allowed Woods to do his innocent dumb guy performance, after which they'd assess the 2-stroke penalty and the sportswriters like Boswell — who also benefit, getting to write about Tiger and not all those other golfers few readers care about — spin the story the way they need it: Somehow the well-seasoned Woods forgot a basic rule of golf because there's no way he'd describe doing exactly what we can see him do on the video unless he thought there was nothing wrong with it.
I don't know what went on behind the scenes. I'm just saying those who hear Woods's statement and think it can only mean one thing are plainly wrong. Think of the motives and think of that 1-hour time gap. There is a lot of money at stake here, and there's a concurrence of interests between the golf authorities and Woods.
ADDED: "Even if they told me I could play, I would slam my trunk and be on my way up the road."