It was Champions Tour player David Eger, a former USGA and PGA Tour official, who called in Tiger Woods’ rules violation to a Masters rules official on Friday afternoon of the tournament, igniting a controversy that Eger thinks easily could have been avoided.
“All that happened Saturday morning was the result of them handling it improperly Friday afternoon,” Eger said. “They got the penalty right but the mechanics of getting there are certainly awkward. It was not the best thing for the player.””
Eger was at his house in Charlotte, N.C., watching the second round and missed Woods’ third shot hitting the flagstick and caroming back into the water. When he realized Woods made bogey at the 15th hole, Eger rewound his digital recorder to see how it happened. That’s when he noticed Woods had taken an improper drop.
Eger called Mickey Bradley, a PGA Tour rules official working The Masters, who relayed the message to Fred Ridley, chairman of The Masters’ competition committee.
Ridley said later he reviewed the drop before Woods finished his round, determined he was not in violation of any rules and, therefore, was not subject to a penalty. Woods signed his scorecard and went on.
“I was shocked when Tiger wasn’t in the scoring area for a long time,” Eger said. “He popped out and was doing an interview where he said he’d gone two yards back.”
Eger felt there should have been a two-stroke penalty on Woods but none was given, not until Saturday morning, leading to the controversy as to whether Woods should have been disqualified.
“When you get any call, it’s the obligation of the rules committee to investigate it, whether that’s looking at video or interviewing the player or both. You do it,” Eger said. “Whether it was Tiger Woods or Joe Schmo, I would have done the same thing.
“I went to bed Friday night thinking I had done what I could, then all hell broke loose Saturday morning.”
Eger, in effect, saved Woods from being disqualified because his call led to the rules committee studying the drop and clearing Woods of wrongdoing. When the matter was reconsidered later, Rule 33-7 was invoked, keeping Woods in the tournament. Eger said Woods should not have been disqualified because of the way the situation was handled, with the rules committee initially clearing Woods of any rules breach.
“It wasn’t a shining Friday for Fred Ridley and he has at his disposal the best rules officials in golf,” Eger said. “I’m sure he had more resources available to him than I had sitting at home with my digital recorder playing it back. For the head guy not to use all the resources available to him is disappointing.”
Eger said he’s never had a problem with viewers calling in rules violation they see on telecasts and recalls instances when players were made aware of potential violations by rules officials monitoring telecasts.
“I’d say 80 percent of the problem was because it wasn’t handled properly on Friday, maybe 100 percent of the problem,” Eger said.