When looking at whether or not Tiger Woods would face disqualification for what ultimately amounted to an illegal drop on Friday at the 2013 Masters, we all looked directly at Rule USGA Rule 26-1, which determines the legality of a drop. But we didn't consider the Rule 33.7, which ultimately kept Woods from being booted by the rules officials in Augusta.
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Rule 33.7 (or the revision to Rule 33.7/4.5, if you prefer) can best be summed up as a "new technology rule" and was instituted by the PGA Tour in April 2011.
Under the new rule, "a penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted."
But the real application of the Rule can be seen through a statement from Fred Ridley, Chairman of the Competition Committee, on the two-stroke penalty assessed to Tiger. (Emphasis mine.)
"The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning," Ridley wrote. "After meeting with the player, it was determined he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round."
So the basic gist is this: Tiger was playing, got hosed when he hit a flagstick and the ball careened into the water, he dropped from a spot near where he hit his first shot, saved bogey, and then no one said anything until Tiger mentioned dropping 2 yards back from the spot he originally dropped at.
Rule 33-7 is supposed to keep unnecessary disqualifications from coming around. Under the description of Rule 33-7/4.5 there's a "not reasonably have known" factor that applies.
"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 rulebook reads. "The penalty stroke(s) associated with the breach would, however, be applied to the hole where the breach occurred."
“For some time we have been concerned that, in certain limited circumstances, disproportionate disqualification penalties have been required by the Rules,"
The entire purpose of the rule amendment was to keep the new-age technology that can quickly allow folks at the course or folks watching not to flip the script by calling in to the PGA and busting players for something they unwillingly did.
And so Rule 33-7 saved Tiger Woods. At least for now.