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Article posted: 4/13/2013 7:41 PM

Woods drama casts shadow over Masters

By Barry Rozner

The greatest thing about golf is the immediate gratification of success and the instant opportunity to recover from disaster.

And the worst thing about golf is the constant consternation, the ability to make a bad situation worse.

It's entirely up to you, and that is unique to this wonderful sport.

Think of Tiger Woods in the third round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

After a bogey on 12 he was 1-over and 3 shots behind leader Rocco Mediate. After an eagle on 13 and bogey on 14, came the ridiculous chip-in bird from an impossible, short-sided lie on 17, and the 60-foot, twisting-and-turning eagle putt on 18.

In the span of about 80 minutes, Woods went from 3 shots behind Mediate to 2 shots ahead, a 5-shot swing over the man he would ultimately defeat in a playoff.

And then there was Friday's brilliant shot at Augusta on 15 that looked stiff at about two feet, before it hit the stick and ricocheted into the water.

Woods went from thinking birdie and 6 under alone on the lead, to bogey and 4-under par. By the time he bogeyed 18 and signed his card, he was 3 under. When he woke up Saturday morning, he was 1 under after a 2-stroke penalty.

That's also a 5-shot swing after hitting a perfect shot to within inches of where he aimed, on day in which he played nearly flawless golf. It has undoubtedly cost him a great chance to win Sunday.

If you ask a frequent golfer why they call it "golf," he's liable to tell you it's because the f-bomb was already taken.

That's golf.

Also a huge part of the game is the rule book, and Woods unwittingly broke one of the rules Saturday.

It's baffling that he didn't remember the rule, even if his head was spinning at that moment. It's baffling with all the rules officials on site that this is the only major championship where rules officials don't walk with the players. It's baffling that after reviewing the shot, officials didn't talk to Woods before he signed his card. It's baffling that you can have a sport where fans watch at home and can call in to get penalties imposed on players. It's baffling that calls from TV viewers can change the course of history.

Can you imagine the NFL or Major League Baseball making such a change the next day?

Whether Woods should have been disqualified after signing an incorrect scorecard will be debated for eternity, but a recent rule change -- called the "high-def" rule by the players -- protects players in these cases.

If you like Woods, you probably agree with the committee's decision. If you dislike Woods, you probably can't believe he was allowed to play.

The reality is somewhere in between. The rules committee reviewed the shot while Woods was on the 18th hole Friday. Had the committee spoken to Woods before he signed his card, a 2-shot penalty would have been assessed and the story would have been about the misery of the 15th hole, not whether Woods received special treatment.

The amazing part is that they wouldn't have reviewed the shot without a call to Augusta from someone watching on TV. And they would not have reviewed a second time late Friday night had someone else not called to say Woods' postgame comments on live TV revealed the mistake yet again.

"After meeting with the player (Saturday morning), it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a 2-stroke penalty," said Fred Ridley, chairman of the competition committee. "The penalty of disqualification was waived by the committee under Rule 33 as the committee had previously reviewed the information (Friday) and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round.

"Based on Tiger's honest answers to questions in light of that information, we determined he violated the rule and should be penalized. But because we made the determination the previous day that he had not violated the rule, we had not spoken to him before he signed his card.

"And because of that, we did not impose disqualification."

This seems reasonable -- based on a two-year-old rule -- to anyone without an agenda or some deep hatred of a man for whatever reasons that help them sleep better at night.

The shame of it is that it distracts from the greatest golf tournament on the calendar, and for the casual golf fan, it reeks of country club stuffiness and men of a certain age and background once again imposing their will.

They see Augusta as Hootie Johnson and Billy Payne and they don't see inclusion, equity or integrity.

They talk about growing the game and promoting it within all races and continents, and they penalize 14-year-old Tianlang Guan for slow play, nearly costing him the cut line.

Yes, rules are rules.

But antiquated and stuffy is no way to grow a game.


čListen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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