Tiger Woods' bid to win his fifth Masters and first major since 2008 suffered a blow today when the tournament Rules Committee hit him with a two-stroke penalty for a drop Friday on the 15th hole, but it wasn't the knockout it could have been.
The No. 1 player in the world could have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, but the committee ruled that since it had already reviewed the play and made a decision before Woods finished his round Friday, that penalty would be waived.
The penalty today left him five strokes off the leader, Australian Jason Day, going into the third round.
Woods was hot on Day's tail - one stroke back - when his approach shot on 15 hit the flag pin on the fly and ricocheted in the water hazard. He decided to return to where he had played the shot, following Rule 26, which says the ball must be dropped in "close proximity" to where the shot was taken.
He finished the hole with a bogey, and wound up the second round 3-under-par for the tournament, three strokes behind Day, in his bid to win his third straight tournament and his first Masters since 2005.
But in a television interview after the round, Woods himself said he did not drop the ball as close as possible to where he'd hit from.
"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," Woods said. "And that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back. I felt that was going to be the right decision to take off four (yards) right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly."
According to Fred Ridley, the chairman of the Masters Competition Committees, a TV viewer who saw the interview alerted tournament officials.
"The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning," Ridley said in a statement announcing the penalty. "After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round."