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ous application of the rules, which he was responsible for knowing and applying correctly. Viewing the inci- dent solely from the stand- point of Woods’ actions, there was no basis to waive the penalty of disqualifica- tion under Rule 6-6d. However, the Masters


committee did not base its exercise of discretion under Rule 33-7 on any circum- stances specific to Woods’ knowledge, but rather on the consequences of the committee’s own actions. Before Woods had returned his score card for the second round, the committee had received an inquiry from a television viewer questioning whether Woods, in taking relief under Rule 26-1a at the 15th hole, had dropped his ball sufficiently close to the spot from which he had played his original ball. The committee promptly reviewed an available video and determined that Woods had dropped and played cor- rectly under Rule 26-1a and therefore had not incurred a penalty. The committee did not talk with Woods before making this ruling or inform him of the ruling. Woods therefore signed and re- turned his score card without knowledge of the commit- tee’s ruling or the questions about his drop on the 15th hole. The following morn- ing, after additional ques- tions had been raised about the incident in a television interview, the committee discussed the incident with Woods, reviewed the video with him and reversed its decision, ruling that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place. In deciding to waive the


disqualification penalty, the committee recognized that had it talked to Woods— before he returned his score card—about his drop on the 15th hole and about the committee’s ruling, the committee likely would have corrected that ruling and concluded that Woods had dropped in and played from a wrong place. In that case, he would have returned a correct score of 8 for the 15th hole and the issue of disqualification would not have arisen. The Decisions on the


Rules of Golf authorize a committee to correct an incorrect decision before the competition has closed, and


not expressly addressed in the existing decisions under rules 33-7 and 34-3 and that reflected two competing considerations. On the one hand, the decisions provide that the player’s responsibil- ity for his own score is not excused by his ignorance or misapplication of the rules. On the other hand, the decisions provide that a committee may correct an erroneous decision and may take its error into account in determining whether it is appropriate to waive the penalty of disqualification. In effect, based on all of the facts discussed above, in this case both the competitor and the committee reached


Only a rare set of circumstances would justify a committee’s use of its discretion to waive a penalty of disqualification for returning an incorrect score card.


they establish that where a committee incorrectly advises a competitor, before he returns his score card, that he has incurred no pen- alty, and then subsequently corrects its mistake, it is ap- propriate for the committee to waive the disqualification penalty. See Decision 34- 3/1. The Woods situation differed from the situation in Decision 34-3/1 and in those other decisions that protect a competitor from disqualification where the competitor has relied on erroneous information from a referee or the commit- tee, in that Woods was not informed of the committee’s initial ruling and therefore did not rely on the commit- tee’s advice in returning his score card. This situation therefore raised a question


an incorrect decision before the score card was returned. The Masters committee


concluded that its actions taken prior to Woods return- ing his score card created an exceptional individual case that unfairly led to the potential for disqualification. In hindsight, the committee determined that its initial ruling was incorrect, as well as that it had erred in resolv- ing this question without first seeking information from Woods and in failing to inform Woods of the ruling. Given the unusual combi- nation of facts—as well as the fact that nothing in the existing Rules or Decisions specifically addressed such circumstances of simultane- ous competitor error and committee error—the com- mittee reasonably exercised


its discretion under Rule 33-7 to waive the penalty of dis- qualification under Rule 6-6d, while still penalizing Woods two strokes under Rules 26- 1a and 20-7c for playing from a wrong place. Since this ruling at the 2013 Masters, the USGA and The R&A have received vari- ous inquiries about the scope of a committee’s discretion to waive a penalty of disquali- fication where the player has failed to return a correct score card. The Woods ruling was based on exceptional facts, as required by Rule 33-7, and should not be viewed as a general precedent for relax- ing or ignoring a competitor’s essential obligation under the rules to return a correct score card. Further, although a committee should do its best to alert competitors to potential rules’ issues that may come to its attention, it has no general obligation to do so; and the fact that a committee may be aware of such a potential issue before the competitor returns his score card should not, in and of itself, be a basis for waiving a penalty of disqualification under Rule 6-6d. Only a rare set of circumstances, akin to the exceptional facts at the 2013 Masters, would justify a committee’s use of its discre- tion to waive a penalty of disqualification for returning an incorrect score card. The Rules of Golf Com- mittees of the USGA and The R&A will review the exceptional situation that occurred at the 2013 Mas- ters, assess the potential implications for other types of situations, and determine whether any adjustment to the rules and/or the decisions is appropriate.


62 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2013


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