Notes from the North

Tiger Woods should have been disqualified from the Masters.

It's not fair. It's not just. But it should have happened.

The fact of the matter is, Tiger signed an incorrect scorecard after Round 2. He didn't do it on purpose. He honestly believed his scorecard was accurate. He had even received, apparently, confirmation from the PGA that his drop had been made properly and according to the rules before he signed his card.

Too bad for Tiger but the PGA then revisted the issue and changed its mind. It penalised Tiger two strokes for an illegal drop, changing his score for the hole and for the round.

And that made Tiger's scorecard, already signed, incorrect.

And that requires that Tiger be disqualified from the Tournament.

I am a huge fan of Tiger Woods. I don't believe he did anything wrong intentionally and I don't think what happened reflects negatively in any way on his morality, his ethics, who he is as a person.

But I think the decision NOT to disqualify him for signing an incorrect scorecard has EVERYTHING to do with who he is. He is Tiger and he is golf in many people's eyes. If this exact situation had happened to any other golfer, I believe that other golfer would have been DQed without a moment's hesitation.

But, if Tiger Woods had been disqualified from the Masters, the tournament would have lost half its TV audience. And the media blow up as a result of the incident would have been much bigger, so large in fact that that fabulous final round would not have mattered to anyone (except the guys on the course and, of course, all of Australia).

Adam Scott's win would be forever subjected to the Tiger asterisk. And the TV audience that tuned in to witness that spectacular final round would have only been half the size.

Which would have been a pity for everyone: the viewers, the tournament, the golfers and, especially, for Scott, Angel Cabrera, Jason Day and the other golfers who played so well on Sunday.

But let's get back to Tiger. All kinds of arguments have been made on the issue: some argue that Tiger didn't break any rules at all and shouldn't have even been penalized; some argue that the situation was handled perfectly and fairly; some argue that Tiger should have been disqualified; and some have even gone a step further and argued that Tiger, in light of the Tour's refusal to disqualify him, should have withdrawn as a show of sportsmanship.

I know, the PGA (or whoever) added a crazy rule that basically says, "If our rules require a disqualification but the circumstances are exceptional, we don't have to follow our rules". To me, that's crap. You either have rules or you don't have rules.

If you want to address an issue of principle, change the rule itself. Don't make disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard an "absolute liability" offence (meaning that you're liable whether you knew your scorecard was incorrect or not when you signed it); add an element of intention to the offence (there has to be reasonable evidence to show the golfer knew or should have known that the scorecard was incorrect when he or she signed it).

In my opinion, the rule on the books (the absolute liability rule) should have been enforced and Tiger disqualified. After the powers that be ruled his drop legal, he signed his scorecard. The powers that be then revisited their decision and enforced a two-shot penalty, making Tiger's scorecard incorrect. And that means he's disqualified.

It's not his fault. He did his best to follow the rules and to follow the rulings that he had been given at the time he was expected to sign his scorecard.

But the rule is clear and the scorecard he signed turned out to be incorrect. Disqualification must follow.

And all of golf should have been made to suffer for its ridiculous rules. So that maybe they'd get around to changing them and making them actually make sense.

As for whether or not Tiger should have voluntarily withdrawn (and the argument that his failure to do so in some way proves he's an evil, nasty man), I say that's all crap too.

He signed a scorecard after he had confirmed his drop had been legal. He was then told it was not legal and he graciously accepted the two-shot penalty. When he was told he would not be disqualified, after the application of the ridiculous "we-don't-have-to-follow-our-own-rules" rule, he accepted that ruling as well.

Nothing requires him to withdraw: not the rules nor a moral or ethical analysis of the situation. In fact, I'd argue that, if Tiger had chosen to withdraw, the same people who are criticising him now for not doing so would be criticising him for behaving like a petulant child by going off and pouting rather than continuing in the Masters and ensuring that his fellow competitors enjoyed the biggest TV audience possible, with as little distraction as could be accomplished in the circumstances.

In this situation at least, Tiger stood absolutely no chance of winning. In fact, I'd argue that the decisions he made right down the line were likely the best ones anyone could have made in the cirumstances. Including his decision to continue in the Masters.

April 15, 2013  01:20 PM ET

Had the committee imposed the 2 shot penalty prior to him signing the card, there wouldn't be any discussion. They screwed up and they used the new rule to keep him in play.

The committee is as much as fault as Tiger.

April 15, 2013  04:22 PM ET

I think they are much more at fault than Tiger, to be honest. If there was still a question of him being penalised, they should have told him before he signed his card and he could have waited. But the rule is clear and silly and the new rule is just plain silly so...

April 15, 2013  10:45 PM ET

I think they are much more at fault than Tiger, to be honest. If there was still a question of him being penalised, they should have told him before he signed his card and he could have waited. But the rule is clear and silly and the new rule is just plain silly so...

Did you catch the crazy rule on Cabrera's shot on the 72nd hole? If he had hit a leaf and it fell from the tree it would have been a one stroke penalty.

The rules of golf are nuts!


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