The 2013 Masters will be remembered and talked about for years to come but it will have little to do with Adam Scott fulfilling a decade of high expectations and becoming the first Australian to win a green jacket.
No, this Masters was about Tiger Woods and a 14-year-old Chinese boy.
For Tiger it was about one of the unluckiest shots in major championship history and the ensuing controversy. For Tianlang Guan it was about being the youngest to ever play in the tournament, then shockingly making the cut and, finally, being the first Masters participant to ever receive one-shot penalty was slow play.
When Tiger’s approach shot on the 15th hole Saturday hit the flag stick and bounced into the water, it was the start of what turned out to be a 4-shot penalty. Instead of making a birdie 4, he wound up with a triple bogey 8. Those 4 shots are the exact margin by which he missed making the playoff.
And let’s get this straight: Tiger deserved the 2-shot penalty for making an improper drop, but, by rule, not being disqualified also was the correct call. Tiger doesn’t deserve the heat he’s catching.
Ironically, those who verbally slammed Tiger for not knowing the rules and then for not “doing the right thing” by DQing himself were guilty of NOT KNOWING the rules. In 2011 the USGA quietly altered a rule which, in effect, stated a player who unknowingly broke a rule and later signed an incorrect scorecard would not be automatically disqualified if the violation was called by an outside agent (i.e. television viewer). The change was made so that the star players and/or players who were playing well – in other words, golfers whose play was being televised -- were not under more scrutiny than golfers not seen on TV.
Based on the rule change, Tiger did exactly what he should have done: He graciously accepted the 2-shot penalty and played the final round.
Among Tiger’s biggest critics were CBS analyst Nick Faldo, a 3-time Masters champ, and The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour journeyman. I understand better than most that it is their job to analyze and criticize, but there was an arrogance in their tone that I thought was over the top. That was particularly true of Chamblee, who often comes across with an I’m-the-smartest-guy-in-the-room demeanor.
As for the 14-year-old’s penalty, all I could think about was under the same circumstances would Tiger, Phil Mickelson or, say, Adam Scott have been penalized for slow play? I have no problem with Guan being penalized. In fact, I think more players should be penalized because slow play is a major problem on the professional golf tours.
But I can’t imagine a star player or a player in contention getting such a penalty. I don’t think the decision-makers – not even the arrogant Augusta National membership – have the stones to make such a call.
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