Playing by (his own) rules

Tiger Woods gave us a glimpse of his true character this weekend with the recent rule infraction controversy at the 2013 Masters Golf Tournament.

The facts are pretty straightforward: Tiger hit a shot which ended up in the drink. He replayed the shot, ‘adjusting’ the location he played the shot from, by his later admission, by “a couple of yards” from the point of the original stroke. The rules permit a total of three options in that situation, none of which include ‘adjusting’ the placement of the ball in the way Tiger did.

During Tiger’s round, the rules committee of the tournament was alerted to the infraction by a television viewer, Curiously (or, maybe not) they determined that no rules infraction had occurred and absolved Tiger without any formal communication to him.

The way in which the infraction was “resurrected” was in Tiger’s own words: During a post-round interview, he disclosed the (illegal) placement of the second ball was nothing if not quite intentional. This caused the rules committee to ‘re-visit’ the issue and assess a two-stroke penalty, but absolve Tiger from the disqualification penalty that normally results from having signed an incorrect scorecard. The reasoning was Byzantine, but the motivation was clear, to say the least.

Tiger’s been playing golf virtually his entire, not just adult, life. He’s encountered the “rule” he’s professed not to know, probably hundreds of times in its application. To characterize the ‘gaffe’ as unintentional is nothing if not preposterous. I haven’t played 1/100th of the golf that Tiger has played and know the rule.

Where things unraveled for Tiger was his self-analysis of how he replayed the shot to ‘perfect’ the prior outcome – his sense of entitlement to bend the rules to suit his drive to win overcomes any fear that anyone will call him on anything. Too bad the Masters Tournament, which prides itself on carrying on Bobby Jones’ storied zeal for integrity, was not up to the task.

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