Consider this a full meal, rather than just a dish.
But it needs to be said by someone. Most of the national media won’t criticize Augusta National over “Tiger-Gate” because they’ll lose their credentials. Just ask Jack Whitacker or Gary McCord what happens when you ruffle those Georgia feathers. And all you have to do is find Alex Miceli or Peter Kostis and ask either of them what happens when Tiger Woods gets his dander up after you’ve pointed the finger at him one too many times.
I’m a nobody, in Baltimore, so fortunately that means I don’t have to be afraid to speak the truth about what happened last Friday and Saturday with the greatest golfer and greatest tournament on the planet.
Tiger Woods had a chance on Saturday morning to raise the bar of expectations from our nation’s superior athletes. He had that chance due to a strange set of circumstances that included his own mistake and some other oddities from people who should have known better.
Rather than distinguish himself forever, Woods elected to do what virtually every other person in his position would have done: He bailed on his opportunity to show an extraordinary amount of integrity and sportsmanship, instead opting to stick it out and hope he won — because, as the ad he was recently featured in proclaimed: “Winning Takes Care of Everything”.
By now, you know the story, even if you’re not a golfer. For those of you who ARE golfers, you’ll understand the opinion I’m about to express. You might not agree with it. But you’ll at least understand it if you’ve played the game at a reasonably high level and done so with respect for the rules. If you’re not a golfer, you probably should excuse yourself at this point and continue on with your day, for it’s highly unlikely you can grasp the true nature of the events of Friday and Saturday and their historical importance to both the sport and to Woods himself.
Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer I’ve ever seen. I did not see Ben Hogan in his prime, nor did I see Jack Nicklaus in his prime. My only memory of Nicklaus as a competitive golfer is his ’86 Masters triumph when Seve Ballesteros gift-wrapped Jack’s sixth green jacket by not being able to hold on to a 3-shot lead with six holes to play.
Whether Tiger is the greatest player ever isn’t part of this discussion, but the fact that he’s the greatest player playing the sport right now IS a huge part of it.
Some would say he’s not only established himself as the world’s best golfer since the turn of the century, but an argument can be made he remains the world’s most dominant athlete during that time, regardless of sport.
Following his rules faux pas on Friday afternoon at Augusta, Tiger signed an incorrect scorecard by testifying to a score of 71 when, in fact, he shot 73.
That fact can’t be debated.
Woods signed an incorrect scorecard by virtue of taking an improper drop on the 15th hole of Friday’s second round.
He was saved by Masters tournament officials who decided on Saturday morning to waive the penalty of disqualification and instead simply penalize Woods the 2-strokes he would have been penalized on Friday had either he or tournament rules officials discovered his infraction PRIOR to his card being signed at the conclusion of Friday’s round.
Before 2011, Woods would have simply been disqualified had the rules infraction been discovered AFTER he signed his card. No questions asked, no discussion, no “waiving the penalty of disqualification”.
A rule established by the R&A and the USGA in 2011 allows for tournament committee members to waive the penalty of disqualification if “exceptional individual circumstances” are discovered.
In this case, on Saturday morning, the Masters decided their own negligence in not penalizing Tiger’s Friday afternoon rules infraction was “an exceptional individual circumstance”, thus they tacked on the 2-shot penalty from Friday and allowed him to play on Saturday and Sunday.
Suddenly, Augusta National deemed it was THEIR responsibility to make sure Tiger Woods followed the rules of golf.
Somehow, Woods was excused for not knowing the rules and not playing by them. I can just see Bobby Jones spitting out his glass of wine in heaven.
Once this all came to light on Saturday morning, Woods should have stepped in immediately and said, “With all due respect, while I appreciate the rule that’s in place for this sort of situation, I’m going to withdraw from the event based solely on the fact that I’m responsible for my own scorecard and I’m also responsible for knowing the rules of golf…and obviously, based on the situation from Friday afternoon, I wasn’t in compliance with the rules when I signed for my second-round score of 71.”
Woods could have gone on to carefully elaborate that he wasn’t trying to cheat when he dropped his ball two yards behind its original point after hitting his 3rd shot in the water at #15 on Friday. He could have simply told the truth: “I dropped my ball two yards behind its original point — and when I was informed that the rule for that particular drop doesn’t allow the ball to be dropped in that spot, it was clear I wasn’t in compliance with the rules. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the infraction, nor did my playing competitors, so the ensuing 2-stroke penalty made my score 73 — not the 71 I signed for on Friday.”
(Please see next page)