Tiger Woods may have been the tournament host at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, but it did not stop him from getting embroiled in a rules controversy. Did Woods cheat? And should he have called a penalty on himself?
Social media was in uproar over the incident, which came during the second round at Albany Golf Club, with many questioning not only why Woods wasn’t hit with a one-shot penalty but also his integrity too.
With Woods’ ball under a palmetto bush, the 14-time major winner opted not to take a drop and instead play it out while crouched on one knee in the sand.
What followed was controversy on two counts: the first, that Woods had seemingly scooped the ball out rather than played a golf shot, and secondly, that he had hit the ball twice in the process too.
Had rules officials decided it was a double hit, something they held long discussions about on the course, Woods would have incurred a one-shot penalty. But they deemed it to be legitimate or the evidence inconclusively.
Woods, of course, could also have called a penalty on himself for the double hit. Did he not realise his club had touched the ball twice? Or was he cheating? Fans certainly weren’t directly accusing Woods, but after watching slow-motion replays on television they were convinced he should have had a penalty imposed.
Woods clarified the situation from his side when he said: “I didn’t feel like I violated any rules. I was trying to play a shot, but the rules committee said they may have been a violation. I didn’t feel like I hit it twice, but under super slow-mo you could see I made contact twice.”
Officials had to take evidence of the incident at full speed and deemed that Woods, who finished the hole with a double bogey and ended the tournament in 17th place out of 18 invitees, could not have known.
The use of television evidence is no longer used following controversial penalties added in retrospect, with the United States Golf Association and the R&A changing the rules permitting technology to be used to call penalties on players last year.
That move followed the controversial four-shot penalty handed to Lexi Thompson – two for the indiscretion and two for incorrectly signing her card – after one television viewer contacted the LPGA 24 hours later to point she had failed to mark her ball correctly in the ANA Inspiration. She subsequently lost a play-off.
The slow-motion evidence, therefore, could not be used against Woods.
The PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions Mark Russell said: “We had to look at high-speed, slow-motion video to determine that the ball probably did stay on the clubface a little too long. But there was no way he could’ve known that.”
“Basically, if the player didn’t know he did that [hit it twice] and the only way you can tell is by using this type of slow-motion technology, he’s exempt from the rules, so there’s no penalty there.”
The accidental double-hit rule is being removed from golf’s rules starting January 1, when a whole sweep of changes will be introduced in a bid to simply the game and speed up play.