Woods drops his ball after hitting into the water on the 15th hole Friday. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods has been assessed a two-stroke penalty for taking an illegal drop on the 15th hole during the second round of the Masters, tournament officials announced Saturday.
His score on the par-5 goes from a bogey to a triple bogey, giving him a 73 for the second round and dropping him to 1 under for the tournament and five back of the lead.
Prior to the start of his third round, Woods tweeted, "At hole #15, I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules. I was unaware at that time I had violated any rules.
"I didn’t know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard. Subsequently, I met with the Masters Committee Saturday morning and was advised they had reviewed the incident prior to the completion of my round.
"Their initial determination was that there was no violation, but they had additional concerns based on my post-round interview. After discussing the situation with them this morning, I was assessed a two-shot penalty. I understand and accept the penalty and respect the Committees’ decision."
The decision to assess the penalty -- rather than disqualify Woods for signing an incorrect scorecard -- comes after Rule 33-7/4.5 was changed in 2011 to read that if a player unknowingly signs for an incorrect score he will be assessed a penalty rather than be disqualified.
Fred Ridley, former president of the USGA and the chairman of the Masters competition committees, issued the following statement regarding the ruling:
“Yesterday afternoon, the Rules Committee was made aware of a possible Rules violation that involved a drop by Tiger Woods on the 15th hole.
“In preparation for his fifth shot, the player dropped his ball in close proximity to where he had played his third shot in apparent conformance with Rule 26. After being prompted by a television viewer, the Rules Committee reviewed a video of the shot while he was playing the 18th hole. At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the Rules.
“After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played further from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.
“The subsequent information provided by the player’s interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player’s round.”
Woods' third shot on the 15th had hit the pin and caromed back off the green and into the water. He chose to play his fifth shot two yards farther back from his original spot to ensure the ball landed short of the flag, he said.
After his round, Woods explained his decision, saying, "I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."
Woods stuck his fifth shot to within a few feet and made the putt to salvage bogey, later saying, "It worked out perfectly."
But under Rule 26-1, Woods had three options for where to play his fifth shot from after hitting into the yellow-staked (not lateral) hazard:
• Play from the designated drop area, which he didn’t want to do because it was wet and he didn’t like the lie it would have given him.
• Drop the ball, keeping the point at which it last crossed the margin of the water between the hole and the spot which the ball would be dropped with no limit how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped. Had Woods chosen this option, however, he would have been well left of his position.
• Return to the original spot from which he played, and drop "as nearly as possible'' from where he played the third shot. As stated above, however, he did not do this, dropping two yards behind his original spot.
Officials -- specifically Ridley, Buzzy Johnson and Will Jones -- returned to Augusta National on Friday night at approximately 10 p.m. to review the situation before meeting with Woods at the course 8 a.m. Saturday.
"We went back to the tournament headquarters and reviewed the interview with ESPN," Ridley said (More Ridley: Tiger wasn't in danger of disqualification). "During that interview Tiger had indicated that he had taken a couple of extra yards, I think were his words. Based on that, it raised some concerns in our minds.
"Tiger was very forthright in his comments and his answers to questions that we had. Based on that and based on his very forthright and honest answers to the questions that I had, I told Tiger that in light of that information that we felt that he had, in fact, violated Rule 26 under the Rules of Golf and that he was going to have to be penalized. I also told him because we had initially made that determination the previous day after reviewing the ESPN video, not of his interview but of his round, that he, in fact, had not violated the rule and that we had elected to make that decision, had not spoken to him, that under Rule 33‑7 that there was ample reason not to impose the penalty of disqualification but to waive that penalty and impose a two‑shot penalty."
Woods' tee time and pairing for the third round will remain the same -- Woods will tee off at 1:45 p.m. ET with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Earlier this year, Woods was penalized for taking an illegal drop in Abu Dhabi, where he missed the cut after being assessed a two-stroke penalty in the second round after he mistakenly thought he could take relief from an embedded lie.
The amendment to Rule 33-7/4.5 came after similar incidents in 2011 led to the disqualifications of Camilo Villegas in Hawaii and Padraig Harrington in Abu Dhabi.
"For some time we have been concerned that, in certain limited circumstances, disproportionate disqualification penalties have been required by the Rules," chief executive of the R&A Peter Dawson said at the time. "This carefully considered decision reflects our desire to ensure that the Rules of Golf remain fair and relevant in the changing environment in which the game is played today."
"This is a logical and important step in our re-evaluation of the impact of high-definition video on the game," added USGA executive director Mike Davis then. "We collectively believe that this revised decision addresses many video-related issues never contemplated by the Rules of Golf."
This is the second penalty assessed this week.
On Friday, 14-year-old Chinese amateur Guan Tianlang was given a one-stroke penalty for slow play after violating Rule 6-7. He was assessed the additional stroke en route to what otherwise would have been a par at the 17th hole.
The last player disqualified from the Masters was Larry Nelson in 1992. He shot 73 in the opening round but was disqualified for using non-conforming clubs -- his irons had decorative diamond shapes on the clubface that were found to be non-conforming by the USGA.
The last player to be disqualified here over a scorecard issue was Dick Mayer in 1967 after failing to sign his card following a 79 in the opening round.
The most significant snafu at Augusta National occurred in 1968 when Roberto De Vicenzo was forced to take a 4 on the 17th hole during the final round. He actually made a birdie 3, which would have gotten him into a playoff the next day with Bob Goalby but because DeVicenzo had signed for the higher score, mistakenly marked on his card by Tommy Aron, he was required to take it.