Tiger and Rory in Abu Dhabi: These cups are safe!
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour
...but these cuts are not...

…but these cuts are not…

Just a few days after the spectacular unveiling of their joint commercial— not to mention the official announcement of Rory McIlroy’s monumental deal with Nike, reportedly worth $100 million over the next five years — the world’s nos. 1 and 2 golfers missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

This marked the official 2013 debut for both McIlroy and Tiger Woods. And yes, they (supposedly) received around a combined $5 million just to show up.

Woods was dismissed early after he was assessed a two-shot penalty for an improper drop on the 5th hole. (Go here to watch the video.) He was informed by European Rules official of the infraction on the 11th tee.

What did he do wrong? Well, he took a free drop when his ball was embedded in sand. Due to the crappy lie — the ball was under a bunch of vines — it was difficult to see whether it was sand or not, but Woods should have called over an official to verify.

Via Golf.com:


“I called Martin (Kaymer) over to verify the ball was embedded. We both agreed it was embedded and evidently it was in sand,” Woods said of the infraction that happened when his drive on 5 landed in a bed of vines. “Andy ruled I broke an infraction, consequently got a two-shot penalty. Andy feels the way he feels about it and I broke the rules.”

McFee said the rule was clear and that Woods never challenged him on it after the round. It came to light when a spectator alerted the European Tour to the infraction, he said.

“An embedded ball relief is through the green but in ground other than sand,” McFee said. “I talked to him when he came off the 11th tee because I couldn’t be sure about a two-stroke penalty until we got into the recording area. I don’t know the exact spot where he was. I know the area. I would need Tiger to come out and have a look, and he was happy it was in sand.”

Woods said it was frustrating to bow out of a tournament in this way, especially after he recovered from four bogeys on his first five holes – the fifth subsequently becoming a triple. He birdied five of the last 11 holes including three in a row in the back nine.

“It’s tough because I didn’t get off to a very good start,” Woods said. “I fought and got it back. I was right there and felt it if I could post even par, I had the chance to go into the weekend only eight back. Evidently, it wasn’t enough.”

Here’s the full USGA explanation, which was posted on its site:

Why was Tiger Woods penalized two strokes for an embedded ball in the sand during the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship?

Sand and the Rules of Golf again made headlines on Jan. 18 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.  Last year, Rory McIlroy had a run-in with sand on his line of play which cost him a penalty of two strokes (to read about that, click here). During the second round of this year’s championship, Tiger Woods incurred a two-stroke penalty on the fifth hole for mistakenly taking relief when his ball was embedded in a sandy area off the fairway.

Rule 25-2 (Embedded Ball) entitles a player to relief from a ball which is embedded in its own pitch-mark in a closely mown area through the green. The Rules of Golf consider “closely mown” to mean “any area of the course … cut to fairway height or less.” The Rules of Golf include a Local Rule found in Appendix I that is used by most tours and courses around the world, including the European Tour which sanctions the Abu Dhabi event. This Local Rule extends relief for balls embedded in their own pitch to all other areas through the green, but it includes two exceptions. Unfortunately Woods’ situation was covered by the first exception.  The wording of this Local Rule is as follows:

Through the green, a ball that is embedded in its own pitch-mark in the ground may be lifted, without penalty, cleaned and dropped as near as possible to where it lay but not nearer the hole. The ball when dropped must first strike a part of the course through the green.

  • Exceptions:
  1. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if the ball is embedded in sand in an area that is not closely mown.
  2. A player may not take relief under this Local Rule if interference by anything other than the condition covered by this Local Rule makes the stroke clearly impracticable.


Match play – Loss of hole; Stroke play – Two strokes.

Woods’ ball had come to rest in an area of sand behind some low bushes. The ball was embedded in the sand, but since the ball was embedded in sand in an area which was not “closely mown,” the Local Rule did not apply. And by taking relief, he incurred a two-stroke penalty under Rule 18-2a for moving his ball in play and failing to replace it.

Had Woods consulted with an official before proceeding on his own, he would have been informed that while relief could not be taken under the Local Rule, he had two options: play the ball as it lay without penalty or declare it unplayable and taken relief with a one-stroke penalty.

Fire up that jet! Good news is Tiger will have plenty of time to get over jetlag before his first start stateside at next week’s Farmers Insurance Open in Torrey Pines. Well, unless he stops again to see Lindsey Vonn...

Meanwhile, Rory set aside his new Nike putter and put in his old Scotty Cameron in the second round, but it didn’t help on the way to posting back-to-back 75s.

“I just felt like the greens that I’ve been practicing on in Florida are a lot faster than these,” he said. “The putter, the Nike putter is great on that. But then getting to here … it’s a weight issue more than anything else. I can feel the head on this one I used today a little bit better. On fast greens, the other one works fine.”

Sounds similar to comments Tiger made in 2010. Rory also suggested he might switch out his driver.

During Monday’s presser, a reporter asked if Rory was required to play all Nike clubs. He replied by saying he wouldn’t discuss specifics of his contract, but we got our answer on Friday.

To be fair, equipment takes a little bit of time to get used to and it’s his first tournament of the year after a bit of a holiday, so we shouldn’t read too much into it. I mean, I wouldn’t hit the panic button quite yet. Rory assured the press and the public, via ESPN.com:

“It’s the first week out. I wouldn’t look too much into that. If anything, it’s more the Indian and the arrow at this point. So a few hours on the range tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, and a bit of work with Michael and try and clear a few things up.

“I’m really happy with the ball and the wedges. The putter is good on fast greens that I’ve practiced on, and I probably just need to find a driver that I’m comfortable with, because I didn’t drive the ball at all well. I feel like that’s a big advantage for me is driving the ball well.”

Rory isn’t expected to play again until the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at the end of February.

Justin Rose leads in Abu Dhabi with a two-day total of eight-under.


Oh yeah, this is for the weekend hacker — if you need to feel better about your game, check out Tiger’s awful drive during the first round. It’ll make you wince.

You’re welcome.


(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)