Tiger Woods has been given a two-stroke penalty at the Masters, a tournament he's won four times, after a review found that he performed an illegal drop on the 15th hole of his second round Friday. Woods faced a possible disqualification for the infraction.
The incident began when Woods' wedge shot was a bit too on-target — it hit the base of the pin, and shot off the green and into a water hazard.
Golf's official rules gave Woods choices for dropping a new ball onto the course for his next shot. As The Augusta Chronicle reports, "The Rules of Golf gave Woods three options for his drop: the designated drop zone, on the line keeping the point where the ball entered the water between his drop point and the pin, or "near as possible" to his original spot."
But instead of putting the ball where he had struck his previous shot, Woods stepped farther away from the green. This was after he had decided to pass on the drop zone.
"I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain and it was a little bit wet," he said in an interview after the round. "So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop. So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards farther back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."
Woods' own words helped spark the review that led to his penalty. Officials at Augusta National, the club that organizes the Masters, say they were first alerted to a possible penalty by a TV viewer, and that Woods' comments seemed to back up the idea that he had performed an improper drop.
Before he found trouble on 15, Woods had charged from four strokes down to claim a share of the lead Friday afternoon. He finished the day tied for seventh, three strokes back. But after Saturday morning's revision, he was five shots behind leader Australia's Jason Day. Fred Couples and Marc Leishman are tied for second at five under par.
While Augusta National officials have made their ruling, the public debate over Woods' drop is continuing — and it will surely live on past Sunday, if the penalty affects the final outcome.
On Twitter, the hashtag #dropgate took off Saturday morning, with some observers saying Woods should be disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, while others say the difference in spots wasn't big enough to warrant a penalty in the first place.
Tournament officials say that the scorecard rule doesn't apply in this case, as the penalty was assessed retroactively. But the official statement also notes that the competition committee first became aware of a possible violation while Woods was still on the course Friday.
Golfer David Duval, who has twice finished second at the Masters, said via Twitter that he feels Woods should not continue in the tournament.
Woods, who regained his ranking as the world's No. 1 golfer last month, is scheduled to begin his third round at 1:45 p.m. ET.
The drop debate comes one day after the enforcement of golf's rules sparked a different debate. On Friday, Tianlang Guan, a 14-year-old who became a fan favorite after holding his own during the tournament's early rounds, was assessed a one-stroke penalty for playing golf too slowly.
Guan still made the cut to continue playing in the tournament, becoming the youngest player ever to make the Masters cut. But his case has led some to say that in his case, golf's rules were applied too harshly.