AUGUSTA — Nobody’s perfect, not even Masters management.
A rogue blade of grass was out of place Saturday in an inconsequential patch of the 11th fairway. There is a soft spot deep in the woods behind Augusta National where one of those annoying gnats might be able to sneak in.
And how about this nutty Tiger thing?
Fred Ridley, the esteemed Augusta National Competition Committee Chairman in the news this week more often Bubba Watson, said Saturday that penalizing Tiger Woods two strokes for an improper drop was “an important and complex ruling.”
Ridley is half right.
Immensely important, yes, with ramifications attached to Woods’ career. It has legs as long as the pursuit of the record for major titles held by Jack Nicklaus.
But not that complicated: Woods correctly was given the same penalty for Friday’s 15th-hole ball drop that he should have received on the course before completing his round.
You don’t disqualify a guy from the Masters for a violation he matter-of-factly brought up in a post-round TV interview.
You don’t let him slide, either, for a drop junior hackers wouldn’t make.
But like taking a gnat into custody after it slips past security and releasing the culprit in North Augusta, the Masters Fertilizer-in-Fan Damage Control Committee did some artful scrambling.
They got it right, if late.
‘Tiger being Tiger’
“I feel like they were by the book,” said Lucas Glover, the former Clemson player and 2009 U.S. Open champion. “Tiger being Tiger, he’s as up and up on the rules as anybody.”
Earl Woods, Tiger’s late father, raised his son that way. Indeed, Tiger at the 1999 Phoenix Open asked that the “loose impediment” rule be imposed on a huge boulder. It was moved.
Just because Augusta National took Roberto “What I Stupid I Am” DeVicenzo’s 1968 Masters playoff opportunity away because he signed a scorecard with a mistake made by playing partner Tommy Aaron doesn’t mean common sense isn’t permitted 45 years later.
No question, Woods improperly dropped the ball after his third shot went in the water.
But Masters rules officials didn’t question the drop, and didn’t assess a 2-stroke penalty even after a TV viewer phoned to alert them off a violation. They didn’t even chat with Woods before he signed his scorecard.
Funny, how football has its “armchair quarterbacks” and golf has armchair catalysts, people that can make a major impact on majors.
But Woods’ admission — “So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back …” — made the TV viewer issue irrelevant.
Bubba weighs in
Ridley said he wasn’t worried about perception.
“All I can say is that unequivocally this tournament is about integrity,” he said. “Our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity, and if this had been John Smith from wherever, that he would have gotten the same ruling because … it is the right ruling under these circumstances.”
Except that Woods has a better chance than that Smith fellow of shining between the azaleas today.
What can go wrong:
Woods wins this Masters. Tainted Tiger title taunts.
Woods breaks Jack Nicklaus’ majors record by 1, or ties Jack at 18. “Remember 2013” will echo forever.
Leave it to Bubba.
“I don’t even know how these people get a number to call,” the defending champion said after his third-round 70. “And, obviously, they have more time on their hands than I do, because I don’t know the number and I’m playing in the golf tournament.”
As long as Watson doesn’t help Woods put on a green jacket today, we should be able to play through.