- Associated Press - Saturday, April 13, 2013

AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - Strip away the hours that elapsed between the crime and punishment, the conflicts of interest, tortured logic and technicalities, and this much is clear: Tiger Woods behaved badly.

The green jackets in charge of the Masters behaved worse.

Hindsight isn’t always 20-20. At Augusta National, it turned out to be two strokes.

On Friday, Woods was tied for the lead at 5-under. He threw a lob wedge into the 15th green for his third shot. It hit the flagstick and ricocheted into the pond.

With three options from where to play his next shot, Woods elected to play from the original spot. Under Rule 26-1, he had to drop a ball “as nearly as possible at the (original) spot.” Intentionally or not _ it doesn’t matter _ Woods violated it by dropping the ball 2 yards behind the original spot, because that distance better fit his plans for the next shot. He hit that close enough for a tap-in bogey 6.

A viewer called into Augusta National to point out the violation.

(Why is golf the only sport that provides a “Crime Stoppers” call-in service? With today’s technology you could prove holding along the line on every play of every NFL game.)

Masters officials review the video of Woods‘ shot sequence as he plays No. 18. They see no violation, don’t consult Woods, and he signs an incorrect scorecard for 71.

After his round, Woods says during an ESPN interview, “I went back to where I played it from, but went two yards further back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit.”

CBS announcer Jim Nantz sees the interview Friday night and calls Masters officials.

They call Woods on Saturday morning and review video of the shot with him. He acknowledges dropping the ball two yards behind where he should have, though Woods would say later on Twitter. “I took a drop that I thought was correct and in accordance with the rules.”

(No surprise there. At the 1999 Phoenix Open, Woods‘ tee shot came to rest behind a boulder on No. 13, and he convinced officials it was a “loose impediment.” In no time, a team of spectators were enlisted to move the boulder, clearing the path for his approach shot and an eventual birdie. So when Woods says he would “move heaven and earth” to win, believe it.)

But because of Rule 33-7, which states in part: “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the committee considers such action warranted,” Masters officials fall on their sword. They waive the penalty of disqualification for signing an incorrect scorecard and instead assess a two-stroke penalty.

Fred Ridley, chairman of the competition committees, justifies the decision by effectively saying “our bad,” claiming they never considered booting Woods because the club had initially cleared him of wrongdoing before he signed his card.

Woods tees off at 1:45 p.m., EDT, to polite applause and nary a boo.

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