May
1
2013
The inside story on the Tiger Woods ruling (Dropgate) at the Masters
By Stephanie Wei under Rules
The most famous improper drop in history

The most famous improper drop in history

Fantastic reporting by SI’s Michael Bamberger on the series of events that led to the Tiger Woods rules snafu on the 15th hole in the second round of the Masters last month. Turns out the “television viewer” that called Fred Ridley, the tournament’s competition committee chairman — and ultimately saved Woods’ from disqualification for taking an improper drop — was Champions Tour player David Eger, according to Bamberger:

In a recent telephone interview, Eger said he was causally watching the Friday round of the Masters in his Florida home. As Woods came off the 16th green, where he got up and down for par, Eger noticed Woods had dropped a shot since he had last seen his score. Eger was curious to see how that had happened.

Through the magic of modern TV, Eger was able to rewind and watch Woods on the 15th hole. He saw Woods play his third shot, the one that famously hit the fiberglass flagstick and caromed into the water. He then watched Woods take his drop.

“I could see there was a divot — not a divot, a divot hole — when he played the shot the second time that was not there the first time,” Eger said. “I played it again and again. I could see that the fairway was spotless the first time he played the shot and there was that divot hole, maybe three or four feet in front of where he played after the drop.”

Eger called PGA Tour rules official Mickey Bradley, who was working the Masters, while Tiger was still on the course:

“I was driving on Washington Road and I saw that David was calling, so I pulled over to the side,” Bradley said last Saturday, while sitting in a golf cart off the 6th hole of TPC Louisiana, where he was working the Zurich Classic. The previous day, Bradley had become a YouTube sensation when he calmly drove alongside a three-legged alligator that had decided to watch some golf. Bradley, from Biloxi, Miss., knows his way around wildlife.

Eger described the drop to Bradley. Their call ended, and Eger sent Bradley a text message about it as well.

Bradley immediately called Ridley and Russell, the veteran PGA Tour administrator who is on the three-man Masters competition committee that is chaired by Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and USGA president. Bradley also forwarded Eger’s text to Russell and Ridley. In his text, Eger wrote that Woods “didn’t appear to play by Rule 26-1-a.” He wrote that he “appeared to be 3-4 feet back” from his divot mark.

Russell didn’t review the drop because he was on the golf course, but Ridley did and he responded to Bradley in a text, saying that Tiger was “closer than (3-4 feet).” Since Ridley decided Tiger had done nothing wrong, he didn’t think there was a point to asking Tiger about the drop — which obviously was a colossal mistake.

Basically, Tiger messed up a basic rule, taking an improper drop, but Ridley may have made an even bigger error by not asking Tiger about it, which may have impacted his play over the weekend. The events that followed could have all been avoided.

Well, at least this puts to rest the conspiracy theories!

I highly recommend reading Bamberger’s full account of the happenings that led to the most famous incorrect drop in golf history .