April 13 2013
Augusta National official Fred Ridley discusses the Tiger Woods ruling on Saturday (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Fred Ridley, the competition committee chairman for Augusta National, said Tiger Woods was never in danger of being disqualified Saturday morning while Masters officials deliberated on the appropriate response for Woods' rules violation on the 15th hole of Friday's second round.
"Disqualification this morning was not even on the table," Ridley said during a news conference Saturday afternoon while third round play was underway.
Ridley and other tournament officials met with Woods at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday morning after the issue developed concerning Woods' violation of Rule 26-1 when making an improper drop at the 15th hole. Because the competition committee had initially decided that Woods had not violated the rule -- and thus did not speak to Woods before he signed his scorecard -- they opted not to punish him for changing their minds.
"Our Committee had made a decision," Ridley said, "and that Tiger, although he didn't know that decision, he was entitled to have the benefit of that decision when he signed his scorecard.
"To me it would have been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him after our Committee had made that (initial) decision."
Officials used rule 33-7 to waive off disqualification and issue a two-stroke penalty to Woods. Ridley said the rule is "intended to protect the player ... in the event the committee were to change its mind." (Click here to read more about Woods' two-stroke penalty)
Tournament officials were informed of a potential rules violation by a fan watching on television and had looked at the video of Woods' drop at the 15th hole after his third shot had hit the flagstick and rolled into the water, but judged that Tiger had intended to comply with the rule. Only after being informed at 10 p.m. ET Friday of Woods' post-round comments about dropping his ball "two yards" behind the initial divot did officials reconsider their initial decision.
By then, Woods had long signed his scorecard for a 1-under 71. After speaking with Woods on Saturday morning, the committee decided to assess the two-stroke penalty, resulting in an adjusted score of 73 and a 36-hole total of 1 under.
Ridley took full responsibility for the decision not to meet with Woods before he signed his scorecard. Asked whether he now wishes he would have spoken to Tiger before he signed his scorecard, Ridley replied: "There's not a day that goes by that there are not some things I wish I would have done differently."
Ridley made several other points during his news conference Saturday:
> The competition committee noticed that Woods' caddie, Joe LaCava, never moved while Tiger investigated his options following his third shot, indicating that Tiger was intent on maintaining a similar spot as his original shot. "It was clear at that point that he was proceeding back to the place where he played his original ball," Ridley said. " ... I didn't see anything and he didn't tell me anything that would lead me to believe that he knowingly violated the rule."
> While deliberating their options, tournament officials contacted the PGA TOUR, the European Tour, the USGA and the PGA of America. "We've explained in just as much detail as you've heard and they are 100 percent behind the utilization of 33-7," Ridley said.
> Ridley confirmed that Augusta National would at least consider utilizing walking rules officials with every group for future Masters. "If there's one thing about the Masters tournament, whether it's whether or not we're going to have chicken sandwiches next year or whatever, we look at everything," Ridley said.
> Asked about perceptions that Woods was getting favorable treatment, Ridley replied: "I can't really control what the perception might or might not be. All I can say is that unequivocally this tournament is about integrity. Our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity, and if this had been John Smith from wherever, that he would have gotten the same ruling, because again, it is the right ruling under these circumstances."