Yet again, Tiger Woods took a controversial drop in a big golf tournament.
After hitting a snap-hook for his drive at the first hole at Muirfield to start the 2013 Open Championship, Woods took the curious step of declaring a provisional ball and hitting a second tee shot, which he also pulled well left. The move was interesting because it was almost impossible that someone in his large gallery would not find the ball. Effectively, it afforded Woods a second swing under the Rules of Golf to try and shake off the nerves, but it was by no means against the Rules of Golf.
Once Woods arrived at his ball, he was able to take advantage of tens of fans flocking to find his ball. They trampled down the grass near it. Woods took an unplayable lie, which came at the cost of a penalty stroke, but allowed him to drop in the stepped-on grass.
Woods hit three from the drop, found a bunker and got up-and-down to make a fortunate bogey at the first hole.
However, did Woods take a proper drop well left of the first fairway?
Golfweek’s Alex Miceli said several journalists who saw the drop questioned its legality. What they questioned, however, remains unclear.
Woods had several options under Rule 28: drop within two clublengths of the original spot, no nearer the hole, or to keep a line between the original spot and the hole, able to go an unlimited distance backward before dropping. He could have also re-teed the ball for his third shot.
Since that opening bogey, Woods played the final 17 holes in 3 under to card 2-under 69 and trail leader Zach Johnson by three shots.
This is the fourth time this season Woods’ drops have been questioned.
In his season-opening tournament at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Woods incorrectly assumed he could take relief from vegetation in a bunker, costing him a penalty shot.
In the second round of the Masters, Woods took an improper drop after his third shot at the par-5 15th caromed off the flagstick into a water hazard. Though Woods essentially admitted to making an incorrect drop — not “as near as possible” to the original spot — he did not assess himself a 2-stroke penalty. Augusta National officials claimed on Saturday morning they had made an error in not advising Woods of his mistake, electing not to disqualify him, but rather simply add the penalty to his score.
Then in the final round of The Players Championship, Woods popped up his tee shot to the par-4 14th at TPC Sawgrass. There was some question where his ball crossed the margin of the hazard, but ultimately the PGA Tour ruled that since Woods and his playing partner concurred on the spot where the ball crossed, Woods was in the clear. Woods never looked at the tee shot.