USGA, R&A back Tiger ruling

Golf's governing bodies came out in support of the controversial ruling given to Tiger Woods at the Masters that kept the golfer from being disqualified but said they would review the matter further to see whether any adjustments to the game's rules or decisions are needed.

Both the United States Golf Association and R&A said they have received numerous inquiries about the situation and hoped their interpretation would provide guidance.

Woods failed to add penalty strokes to his scorecard following an improper drop during the second round on April 12 -- a violation that did not come to light until after he signed his card. Typically that would result in disqualification, but the Masters rules committee waived the disqualification and assessed the 2-stroke penalty under rarely used Rule 33-7.

With the penalty, Woods entered the third round 5 strokes out of the lead and eventually finished tied for fourth, 4 strokes out of a playoff won by Adam Scott.

"This ruling was based on an exceptional set of facts, as required by Rule 33-7, and should not be viewed as a general precedent for relaxing a player's obligation under the Rules to return a correct scorecard,'' the statement said.

The USGA and R&A went through the entire situation point by point in a statement that covered three pages.

It noted that the Masters rules committee received word from a spectator watching the telecast that Woods may have taken an improper drop. According to Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, he reviewed video of the drop while Woods played the final hole and determined that no violation occurred.

This, in essence, is where the Masters said it made a mistake and Woods should not have suffered a disqualification because of it; had officials discussed it with Woods, he reasonably could have been expected to add 2 strokes to his score before signing his card.

On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated identified the man who made the telephone call as David Eger, a Champions Tour player as well as as a former USGA and PGA Tour rules official. According to the story, posted on Golf.com, Eger did not see Woods' shot live, but instead rewound a tape at his Florida home and, thinking he had seen a violation, called his friend Mickey Bradley, a veteran PGA Tour rules official who was working The Masters. Bradley forwarded a text from Eger to Ridley, who did not talk to Woods until the next day.

From the USGA/R&A statement:

"The fact that Woods, when he returned his score card, was not aware that he had incurred a two-stroke penalty on the 15th hole was not a basis to waive disqualification under Rule 33-7. Moreover, contrary to what some have suggested, the decision of the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty for Woods was not and could not have been based on Decision 33-7/4.5, a 2011 Decision that permits waiver of disqualification where 'the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules.' That extremely narrow exception, which relates generally to use of high-definition or slow-motion video to identify facts not reasonably visible to the naked eye, was not applicable here and had no bearing on the Committee's decision. Woods was aware of the only relevant fact: the location of the spot from which he last played his ball. His two-stroke penalty resulted from an erroneous application of the Rules, which he was responsible for knowing and applying correctly. Viewing the incident solely from the standpoint of Woods' actions, there was no basis to waive the penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d.

"However, the Masters Tournament Committee did not base its exercise of discretion under Rule 33-7 on any circumstances specific to Woods' knowledge, but rather on the consequences of the Committee's own actions. Before Woods had returned his score card for the second round, the Committee had received an inquiry from a television viewer questioning whether Woods, in taking relief under Rule 26-1a at the 15th hole, had dropped his ball sufficiently close to the spot from which he had played his original ball. The Committee promptly reviewed an available video and determined that Woods had dropped and played correctly under Rule 26-1a and therefore had not incurred a penalty. The Committee did not talk with Woods before making this ruling or inform him of the ruling. Woods therefore signed and returned his score card without knowledge of the Committee's ruling or the questions about his drop on the 15th hole. The following morning, after additional questions had been raised about the incident in a television interview, the Committee discussed the incident with Woods, reviewed the video with him and reversed its decision, ruling that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place.

"In deciding to waive the disqualification penalty, the Committee recognized that had it talked to Woods -- before he returned his score card -- about his drop on the 15th hole and about the Committee's ruling, the Committee likely would have corrected that ruling and concluded that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place. In that case, he would have returned a correct score of 8 for the 15th hole and the issue of disqualification would not have arisen.

"The Decisions on the Rules of Golf authorize a Committee to correct an incorrect decision before the competition has closed, and they establish that where a Committee incorrectly advises a competitor, before he returns his score card, that he has incurred no penalty, and then subsequently corrects its mistake, it is appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty.''

The Masters and Augusta National did not immediately have any comment on the USGA/R&A statement, which concluded that the two organizations have been studying the rules in recent years as they pertain to scorecards and disqualification.

"As part of this ongoing assessment, and in keeping with this regular practice, the Rules of Golf Committees of the USGA and The R&A will review the exceptional situation that occurred at the 2013 Masters Tournament, assess the potential implications for other types of situations, and determine whether any adjustment to the Rules and/or the Decisions is appropriate,'' the statement said.