Golf Magazine

How the Masters Rules Committee Ruling on Tiger Led to World Peace

By Theteesheet @theteesheet

We thought it would be useful today to look into the future archives of the Augusta Golf Club and see what they ultimately thought of the Tiger Woods ruling in 2013


To:          Condaleeza Rice, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club

Date:      April 5, 2023


  • Tiger Woods’ Penalty and Non-Disqualification of 2013
  • 10th Anniversary Celebrration of The Great Ruling
  • When Augusta Changed the Rules of Golf and the Course of World History?

Dear ‘Leeza, (I have to admit I’m still getting used to the informality around here)

As former Secretary of State and Chairman of this wonderful club, I can understand why you are so interested in Augusta National’s contribution to world peace since that historic moment in 2013. As requested I have prepared this short memorandum to summarize the ruling made by the Rules Committee in 2013 regarding Tiger Woods.

Of course we all know how Tiger ultimately did. It seems insignificant now knowing the domino effect of reasonableness that cascaded across the Middle East, Africa, North Korea and the rest of the world. Doesn’t it feel like there has always been world peace?

Anyway, it seems so obvious but sometimes we forget what started it all. I know your background is political science so please forgive me as I use a little of my legal background to describe the events of April 11 and 12, 2013.

If you recall, David Feherty on the online review show tried to lighten the mood with the comments, “this is not Roe v Wade, this is just a golf tournament.” Actually, the decision of Rules Committee of The Masters was like Roe v. Wade of golf in terms of legal precedence.

Is the Masters Rules Committee really like the Supreme Court? Look at it this way:

Legislators: USGA

Law (police): the players themselves

Order (Courts):  players at first, then

State/Federal Appeals courts: rules officials

Higher State/Federal Appeals courts: Rules Committee at USGA, R&A and PGA Tour events

Supreme Court: Masters Rules Committee

Not only that, the Supreme Court justices have robes and our Rules Committee have our green jackets.


It is important to understand the importance of the Masters in the world of golf to understand the significance of the ruling. Now, let’s get to the ruling.


Let’s break this down step by step.

This was the rule:

26-1. Relief For Ball In Water Hazard

It is a question of fact whether a ball that has not been found after having been struck toward a water hazard is in the hazard. In the absence of knowledge or virtual certainty that a ball struck toward a water hazard, but not found, is in the hazard, the player must proceed under Rule 27-1.

If a ball is found in a water hazard or if it is known or virtually certain that a ball that has not been found is in the water hazard (whether the ball lies in water or not), the player may under penalty of one stroke:

a. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played (see Rule 20-5); or …

The question is whether the drop was “as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.”

Before we get to whether he broke this rule, it would be useful to look at this from a criminal law standpoint just for our analysis. First some background.

In general, to break a law (i.e. commit a crime), you have to be guilty of intent to commit the crime and then actually commit the physical act of the crime. In other words, you need the guilty mind, known as the mens reas, and the guilty act, known as the actus reas. You have to have both to be guilty or else there is no crime.

If you really want to test your mens rea and actus reas skills, I recommend you check out the humorous Ronald Opus example. Or to avoid attempted murder, you can always check out a good example of mens rea expertise by Rodney “Quills” Dinkins at the World Series of Dice against Leonard Washington [if you’re in a hurry, you can skip to the 4-minute mark to see this example of using the concept of mens rea to one’s advantage].

First, let’s clarify that intent, or actus reas, can be distinguished from whether you actually intended to break a rule or not. In other words, now knowing the rule is not a defense. Just because you thought the speed limit was 65 and had no intention of speeding does not get you out of the ticket in the 30 MPH school zone. In such a case, you are guilty of the mens rea (you intended to drive 65 MPH) and the actus reas (you pushed the gas pedal and made the car for 65 MPH). Granted, this is just a basic description because the whole scope and nuance of actus reas and mens rea could fill a library. The general concept of intent to do something versus actus reas is important because we can all agree that Tiger was not trying to break the rules or cheat in any way.

The Rules Committee first decided there was no rules violation for Tiger’s drop and then decided there was after hearing his description in an interview with the media in which he indicated he intentionally dropped it a couple of yards back.

The Rule Committee must have made an error at some point. The mistake was one of the following:

  1. They made a mistake when they initially decided the drop was within the rules for no penalty; or 
  2. They erred when actually assessing the penalty because they took Tiger’s intent into account. Tiger revealed Friday night that he felt dropping 2 yards back from his original spot was an advantage.

The Rules Committee should have ignored Tiger’s intent. Consider the extreme: let’s say Tiger in his mind is so accurate, that he intentionally dropped the ball 8 inches instead of 4 inches from the divot mark, and it ended up 9 inches away. I think we would all agree that 9 inches falls within “as nearly as possible” in that situation … even if Tiger felt the getting an extra 5 inches that he considered an advantage. It’s silly of course, his intent doesn’t matter in that case.


In other words, once the committee determined the drop was fair, they are essentially determining no rule was broken (i.e. no crime because there was no actus reas). It doesn’t matter what Tiger says afterwards. In other words, you can’t be charged with murder for shooting Bernie (I’m sure you remember the classic 80’s movie that kids these days just don’t appreciate) in the head if he is already dead. Or to put in another way, if Elin had disguised herself as a Perkins waitress and was picked up by Tiger for the night, he would not have been committing adultery … even if that was his intention.

If the Rules Committee got it right in the first place, then Tiger should never have entertained the idea of withdrawing as suggested by the pundits but Tiger should have been angry that he was assessed even a 2 stroke penalty. Again, his intention to drop 2 yards back is not relevant if the physical location of the ball was originally found to be within the rule.

Of course it is possible the committee was wrong in its original decision that he did not break a rule and eventually got it right by assessing the 2 stroke penalty (regardless of Tiger’s comments afterwards).

This in fact seems more likely the case. We can come to this conclusion by the reaction of all the players and former players both that called for Tiger to withdraw and those insisting he play. The general consensus was that 2 yards back is outside the range of players who make a drop under this rule.

Look at it this way: if you were to ask the top 100 players in the world if two yards back is outside the scope of rule 26-1a (especially when you know the exact spot of your last shot because of the divot), it is a good bet 98-100 would say that is too far. This seemed obvious in Sir Nick Faldo’s interesting comments that he used to be concerned about the ball going back into the divot mark when he made drops under rule 26-1a. That said, it does seem possible Tiger thought a couple of yards is fine under this rule as his quote suggested. It is possible all players don’t think the same way. However, most players on television appear to think that the drop was too far away (even though none thought Tiger intended to cheat or break a rule in any way).

Let’s proceed with this assumption that technically, the drop Tiger made was in violation of 26-1. Whether he intended to break a rule of golf or not is not the point.

‘Leeza, if you recall, this is when it really got interesting.


Tiger broke rule 26-1, albeit unintentionally. Remember, this is distinct from the intention of actually committing the act of dropping the ball about 2 yards back from his original spot, or the actus reas.

The next issue faced was whether the Rule Committee should have waived the standard rule that would have disqualified Tiger. This is the rule:

33-7. Disqualification Penalty; Committee Discretion

A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.

Any penalty less than disqualification must not be waived or modified.

If a Committee considers that a player is guilty of a serious breach of etiquette, it may impose a penalty of disqualification under this Rule.

Obviously, this is extremely broadly worded. On the wording alone, the Rules Committee clearly has the authority to waive the disqualification if it determined this was an “exceptional individual case.” From strictly a rules standpoint, was it?

Probably not.

Players have been signing incorrect scorecards for many years and getting disqualified. If you recall, our club had this problem with Roberto di Vincenzo in 1968 and he was disqualified with the lowest score of the Masters that year! Historically, before April 12, 2013, rules committees had not waived the signing of incorrect scorecards at our club or any club for this type of situation.

It should be noted that Rule 33-7 does not stand by itself. Likely because it is so broad, the rules also come with “Decisions” which set out the parameters and examples for the particular rules. In the case of signing an incorrect scorecard, there is a specific set of Decisions under 33-7/4.5, which provides the following [this is long and I summarize it below if you need to move along]:


Competitor Unaware of Penalty Returns Wrong Score; Whether Waiving or Modifying Disqualification Penalty Justified

Q. A competitor returns his score card. It later transpires that the score for one hole is lower than actually taken due to his failure to include a penalty stroke(s) which he did not know he had incurred. The error is discovered before the competition has closed.

Would the Committee be justified, under Rule 33-7, in waiving or modifying the penalty of disqualification prescribed in Rule 6-6d?

A. Generally, the disqualification prescribed by Rule 6-6d must not be waived or modified.

However, if the Committee is satisfied that the competitor could not reasonably have known or discovered the facts resulting in his breach of the Rules, it would be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving the disqualification penalty prescribed by Rule 6-6d. The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred.

For example, in the following scenarios, the Committee would be justified in waiving the disqualification penalty:

A competitor makes a short chip from the greenside rough. At the time, he and his fellow-competitors have no reason to suspect that the competitor has double-hit his ball in breach of Rule 14-4. After the competitor has signed and returned his score card, a close-up, super-slow-motion video replay reveals that the competitor struck his ball twice during the course of the stroke. In these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty and apply the one-stroke penalty under Rule 14-4 to the competitor's score at the hole in question.

After a competitor has signed and returned his score card, it becomes known, through the use of a high-definition video replay, that the competitor unknowingly touched a few grains of sand with his club at the top of his backswing on a wall of the bunker. The touching of the sand was so light that, at the time, it was reasonable for the competitor to have been unaware that he had breached Rule 13-4. It would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty and apply the two-stroke penalty to the competitor's score at the hole in question.

A competitor moves his ball on the putting green with his finger in the act of removing his ball-marker. The competitor sees the ball move slightly forward but is certain that it has returned to the original spot, and he plays the ball as it lies. After the competitor signs and returns his score card, video footage is brought to the attention of the Committee that reveals that the ball did not precisely return to its original spot. When questioned by the Committee, the competitor cites the fact that the position of the logo on the ball appeared to be in exactly the same position as it was when he replaced the ball and this was the reason for him believing that the ball returned to the original spot. As it was reasonable in these circumstances for the competitor to have no doubt that the ball had returned to the original spot, and because the competitor could not himself have reasonably discovered otherwise prior to signing and returning his score card, it would be appropriate for the Committee to waive the disqualification penalty. The two-stroke penalty under Rule 20-3a for playing from a wrong place would, however, be applied to the competitor's score at the hole in question.

A Committee would not be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d if the competitor's failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the competitor could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card.

For example, in the following scenarios, the Committee would not be justified in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty:

As a competitor's ball is in motion, he moves several loose impediments in the area in which the ball will likely come to rest. Unaware that this action is a breach of Rule 23-1, the competitor fails to include the two-stroke penalty in his score for the hole. As the competitor was aware of the facts that resulted in his breaching the Rules, he should be disqualified under Rule 6-6d for failing to include the two-stroke penalty under Rule 23-1.

A competitor's ball lies in a water hazard. In making his backswing for the stroke, the competitor is aware that his club touched a branch in the hazard. Not realising at the time that the branch was detached, the competitor did not include the two-stroke penalty for a breach of Rule 13-4 in his score for the hole. As the competitor could have reasonably determined the status of the branch prior to signing and returning his score card, the competitor should be disqualified under Rule 6-6d for failing to include the two-stroke penalty under Rule 13-4. (Revised)

It is important that this was a relatively new rule only a couple years old at the time.

What is obvious from these examples is that this Rule is intended for situations where it was virtually impossible for the player to know he had broken the rule at the time. Consider:

  • The only three examples in which is ruled acceptable to waive the penalty is when the HD video footage discovers something the player had not way of knowing at the time. This seems like a logical rule.
  • The two examples in which it is not justifiable to waive the rule is when the player did now know the rule or did not take reasonable care to determine he had actually broken the rule.

In comparison to these examples provided by the USGA as part of Rule 33-7, it is obvious they did not intend for it to be used in situations like Tiger’s drop when they drafted the rule.

The determination that the drop was not “as nearly as as possible at the spot” of his prior shot could have been determined right away. It is clear that ignorance is not a defense. Just like speeding tickers, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t know the rule or your odometer was broken.

The Masters Rules Committee went beyond precedent and the original intention of Rule 33-7 in not disqualifying Tiger.

That does mean the Rules Committee was wrong.

Many agreed that many of the Rules (especially those that disqualify a player) were too harsh and not even within the spirit of sportsmanship and the game. We can be proud the Masters used its grand stage to make this point and set a new precedent for the rules of golf.

As we know, this reasonableness went beyond Magnolia Lane and the our little club. In the subsequent years, the world took lessons from how the rules of golf could be reasonable. And that is why we have world peace today.

Hope this helped ‘Leeza and I look forward to the 10th Anniversary celebrations of the Ruling. I also look forward to our first round together.


Douglas Han (New Member)

P.S. I’m still doing my best to figure out the original pimento cheese sandwich recipe.

Douglas Han


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