This is one time when a phone call from someone to the tournament committee would have been helpful. That is generally a shaky practice that golf has allowed for years, but just this once it would have been great. The one calling should have been Tiger Woods.
One of the beauties of golf is that the competitors call penalties on themselves, which is the one thing that Woods did not do after his illegal drop. Many people dropped the ball, in a figurative sense, on this one. The Masters committee admitted that it had mishandled the situation by not telling him about it at first, so it found a way not to disqualify him. But the blame starts with Woods.
He either did not know the rule that he had just broken or he was so upset about getting a bad break on his previous shot (off the flagstick into the lake) that he forgot all about protocol. Either way, it's on him. Someone in his entourage should have noticed what seemed obvious to rules experts.
To this peanut stand, this all paints a bigger picture. It says that Woods just does not have his old perfect pitch.
In his heyday, Woods always had the answer to every situation. He was full of fire when he had to be, cool when he had to be. He always seemed one step ahead of everyone else. This time, though, he was along for the ride.
Woods was not aware that he broke a rule (about where to drop a ball after the previous one went in the water), and inadvertently, blithely described the infraction later. His comment about having dropped two yards behind the site of his original shot waved a bright red flag in front of the competition committee, which had no choice but to penalize him.
Irony No. 1 is that Woods always goes out of his way to avoid saying anything controversial (or very interesting), and it was his words that got him in trouble. Irony No. 2 is that during the same session with reporters Friday, he was asked about the slow-play penalty assessed to 14-year-old competitor Tianlang Guan and said, "Well, rules are rules."
Well, there are rules and there are rules. They can vary, depending on who is getting ruled upon. The committee spared Woods from disqualification by invoking rule 33-7, a 2011 innovation designed to protect golfers from being done in by viewers whose high definition TVs can show things that players might not see.
Masters officials have long been creative and flexible when it comes to big stars. Ken Venturi never has gotten over what he considered a bad call in Arnold Palmer's favor on an embedded ball 55 years ago.
Three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo went further on Golf Channel, calling the situation "dreadful" and saying Woods should voluntarily disqualify himself in keeping with the self-policing spirit of the game. (Faldo later backed way down from that stance in his role as lead analyst on CBS.)
"I think that's probably a little harsh, disqualifying himself," said Sandy Lyle, who, like most players in the field Saturday, gave Woods the benefit of the doubt. They insisted he did not deliberately cheat. Lucas Glover said, "He's as up-and-up with the rules as anybody."
None of us ever asked Arnie to give back his green jacket from 1958. But the whole thing with Woods just smelled a little funny and looked strange. Woods was not in control. He was lucky to get a generous call from committee members, and he never called them.