You've probably heard or read by now that Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty this morning for taking an illegal drop at the 15th hole on Friday in the second round of The Masters.
Woods played his third shot from the fairway. His ball hit the flag and caromed back, and to the left, and into the water. Woods decided not to play from the drop zone. He dropped a few yards from his divot, made a 6 on the hole and finished the second round three strokes off the lead.
Saturday morning, The Masters released a statement from Fred Ridley, chairman of its competition committees, saying that the tournament rules committee was ``prompted by a television viewer'' to review his drop. ``At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the rules,'' the statement read, in part.
When Woods admitted during his post-round interview that he had dropped the ball well behind his divot to give him an advantageous yardage, the committee statement said, ``Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.''
The committee met with Woods this morning and told him he was being assessed a two-shot penalty. He would have been disqualified under older versions of golf's rule book, but rule 33-7 was added in 2011 to address instances in which observers notify officials about inadvertent rules violations.
That's the news. Here's my opinion: Tiger is benefitting from The Masters' desire to have him on TV this weekend. Just Friday, the tournament assessed a penalty stroke to a 14-year-old for slow play, on a day when just about anybody on the course could have been penalized for slow play. After that happened, Tiger said, ``Rules are rules.''
I'm not always a letter-of-the-law guy, because golf's rules are too numerous and picayune, and sometimes just stupid. A player, for example, shouldn't be penalized when the wind blows his golf ball while he's preparing to putt. That's silly.
Here's why I think Tiger should withdraw: He admitted he broke the rule, and broke the rule while seeking an unfair advantage. Moving your ball back to a more desirable distance is cheating.
Any player should withdraw under these circumstances. Tiger should, especially. He gained an unfair advantage. He dropped the ball at an optimal distance, which allowed him to get up and down from the fairway and save a bogey when double or triple bogey loomed.
What if he wins his 15th major because he cheated? What if he subsequently wins 19 majors, breaking Jack Nicklaus' record? His record will be forever tainted.
There are many areas of gray here. If Woods had not conducted a post-round interview, he would be safe. But he did, so he shouldn't be.
The Masters looks bad, because the tournament committee looks like it is willing to punish a 14-year-old to the full extent of the rules, and willing to give a pass to a player whose presence affects TV ratings.
But there is room within the rules for The Masters to allow Woods to remain in the tournament.
That's why Woods needs to display some perspective and withdraw. He cheated. He admitted he cheated. He benefitted by cheating. He should withdraw.