Masters does it again!
Well, the Masters seldom disappoints, and it’s fair to say that the 2013 edition was no exception. What a week it was! Controversy, rain, a 14-year old amateur and some blistering golf under intense pressure all contributed to a truly memorable event. But there is only one place to start, and that is with the hullabaloo over the Tiger Woods incident.
The seemingly never-before-seen Rule 33.7 came to his rescue, and after dropping incorrectly at the 15th hole on day two, he was retrospectively assessed a two-shot penalty as opposed to the “mandatory” disqualification for signing a scorecard lower than his actual score.
Make no mistake about it, it was a disgrace. And unprecedented. This phantom rule indicates that only in exceptional circumstances can disqualification be waived in an incident such as this, and, for me, the explanation offered by the esteemed Rules Committee fell considerably short of meeting this criterion.
Woods leads us to believe that he was given the all-clear to sign his card, as the committee had apparently reviewed the incident and found no infraction. Is this even true? Did Tiger go looking for them afterwards to enquire? Did they take the initiative to find Tiger afterwards and say “don’t worry, you’re OK mate?” Even though Tiger at no stage consulted a rules official or showed signs of concern for the rest of his round?
I’d be surprised if either situation really transpired in reality, but I suppose we have to take their word for it. But even then, the situation wasn’t exceptional. Many people have been retrospectively assessed disqualification in similar circumstances. Nick Price and Nick Faldo received no mercy from officials at the 1992 Million Dollar Golf Challenge at Sun City. Faldo, it was later determined, had signed an incorrect scorecard in the third round, while Price refused to sign his card because he felt the two-stroke penalty he was assessed for moving an advertising board was unfair.
Incidents involving Roberto De Vicenzo (1968 Masters), Greg Norman (1990 Palm Meadows Cup), Jesper Parnevik (2003 Open Championship), Doug Sanders (1966 Pensacola Open) and Jim Furyk (2001 Nedbank Golf Challenge) all spring to mind, and, other than De Vicenzo, each player suffered disqualification. Furyk even called it upon himself, even thought there was no TV evidence, and no one else had the slightest notion he'd made an error.
Infractions like these are rare, but the lenient outcome that Woods received has absolutely no “case law.” The only thing exceptional about it all is him. He is box office, and of course interest (and TV money!) would have waned if he wasn’t there on the weekend.
Many believe he should have disqualified himself, but I don’t. In cricket, you shouldn’t have to walk if you get an edge. It’s the umpire’s job to give you out, and in this case the Committee had all the facts at their disposal. But they were weak. They succumbed to the power of money, and it was an embarrassment for themselves and the integrity of golf.
This “good break” for Woods was, however, significantly overshadowed by the outrageous misfortune he suffered that Friday. That pin essentially cost the world’s No 1 four strokes, and completely changed the dynamic of the tournament for him. He had to chase the game from that point onwards. Like the guy or not, it’s hard to see how he wouldn’t have gone on to win a fifth green jacket without that killer blow.
But Tiger has also time and again had the rub of the green, and these things do happen. And it certainly shouldn’t detract from Adam Scott, and the deserved success he tasted on Sunday. Jason Day will no doubt have felt nauseous after having blown it with the finish line in sight, but Scott delivered under enormous pressure.
The Australian’s putting has been notoriously poor in recent years, and he couldn’t buy one for much of the fourth round. But he got it done down the stretch, and, in the playoff, he stood tall. Despite Angel Cabrera’s best efforts – and they were equally sensational – Scott deservedly came out on top, and emphatically exorcised the ghosts from last year’s Open.
And if the Tiger Woods debacle soured the image of golf, the sportsmanship displayed by Cabrera more than made up for it. You’d rarely see someone so gracious in defeat in any sport, and the Argentinian underlined the fact that golf (generally) is the gentleman’s game.
But all in all, the Masters once again showed why it is so special. I hope the eyes stayed open at work on Monday, but even if they didn’t, it was worth it. Bring on next year!