10 - 13 April

The Tiger controversy

Dave Tindall discusses the Tiger Woods furore in his third round blog from Augusta National

By Dave Tindall.   Last Updated: 14/04/13 2:26pm

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If Tiger Woods' pitch shot at 15 in round two had been an inch further to the left or right, he'd be the joint leader of the Masters with a round to go.

And given that he's won all his 14 majors from the front, he'd be a huge favourite to chalk up No.15.

But due to a chain of events that couldn't have been imagined Tiger has it all to do. Then again, perhaps he should be grateful he at least has the chance.

At 0645 this morning I got up for a shower and then, as usual, watched The Golf Channel before getting a shuttle to Augusta National. The programme was running highlights of the previous day's play so nothing seemed untoward.

However, when arriving in the media centre just before 0800 I bumped into Sky Sports News' Charlie Thomson, who with a yellow ticker running across his forehead (not really), dropped the bombshell that Tiger Woods was staring at disqualification.

There were hardly any press in the media centre at that point but back in the UK, Sky Sports News were all over the story.

It all unfolded like this.

Instead of stopping by the hole, Tiger's chip shot at the 15th hole in round three had struck the pin and ricocheted back into water. He'd then dropped his ball a couple of yards behind his original divot and played the shot again, doing well to get up and down for what was then a bogey.

However, golf rules being golf rules, that is a crime. As he didn't go to the official drop zone, the ball has to be dropped where the original shot had been taken. It wasn't. Damning photos and TV coverage then began being circulated of the incident. A smoking gun.

For a while Twitter went into meltdown and Nick Faldo appeared on TV being particularly vocal about Woods' 'crime'.

It seemed certain Tiger would suffer a sensational disqualification but whispers stared to circulate that he'd got away with a two-shot penalty.

As the media folk furiously double checked the R&A rules of golf, Augusta National Competition Committees chairman Fred Ridley called an official press conference to confirm the ruling and why Tiger had been let off.

It had started with a phone call from a TV viewer (as all these incidents seem to) but, as Ridley revealed: "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."

In other words, they'd decided there was no misdemeanor on Tiger's part before he walked off 18 on Friday and therefore he hadn't signed for an incorrect score.

However, when they later saw a TV interview of Tiger revealing that he'd deliberately dropped the ball a couple of yards away they realised there was a problem.

Eventually, they decided he'd violated Rule 26 (are you following this) which was drop the ball in an incorrect spot and that incurred the two-shot penalty. Tiger should have known the rule (and it's this which made him guilty in the eyes of so many) but he was given the benefit of the doubt due to a ruling only brought out in 2011 where it can be considered okay not to.

After that, the "one rule for Tiger, one for the rest" line was bandied around willy-nilly and for a while everyone seemed to forget that play had started.

Defending champion Bubba Watson, playing with a marker due to being dead last of those who made the cut, had actually birdied the first three holes but no-one noticed.

Any signs of Tiger appearing sheepish when he turned up for his round were soon dismissed and, with his usual sense of theatre, rather than play the first in apologetic fashion he hit his approach to a foot and tapped in for birdie.

In the end he compiled a two-under 70 which put him at three-under for the tournament. But - and this is where we started - due his ball striking a flag rather than stopping by the hole at 15 on Friday, a potential birdie four had actually turned into a triple bogey eight (two more shots after the drop and then the two-shot penalty added on to that).

And that is why, instead of being tied for the lead, he is four shots back and has it all to do. Phew!

Saturday snippets

* Early this morning I thought I'd watch Keegan Bradley for a couple of holes. I thought, as Tim Clark would do, Bradley might be the one to spring from the back and end the day in the top 10. As it happened Bradley made a complete horlicks of the first hole, taking double, and that kick-started a horror round of 82. He finished the day in last place!

* Tianlang Guan found life a little tougher day as he returned a five-over 77. Then again, another way of looking at it is that a 14-year-old boy shot two better than world number two Rory McIlroy (79). Guan will play with Sandy Lyle in round four.

* Good news. Due to the poor choice of American tea, I've been borrowing Kirsty Gallacher's secret supply of PG Tips. Bad news. She's now run out.

* In last month's Golf Monthly I tipped joint-leader Brandt Snedeker to win The Masters. I also tipped Matt Kuchar (three shots back in sixth) in my Sky Sports website preview. Hopefully one of those can do the business on Sunday although part of me is pulling for all round nice guy Adam Scott.

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