Tiger Woods should have been disqualified from the 2013 Masters.
There are a seemingly infinite number of rules buried deep in the throes of the USGA website -- I found this out as Friday night handed itself to Saturday morning and I parsed pages and pages of material.
I was desperately trying to figure out which line Woods had crossed or if he had crossed one at all.
In the end, my conclusion was this: The heart of nearly every USGA rule -- or every golf rule in general -- is that you shall not improve your position, you shall not obtain an advantage that is greater than your original situation.
Woods did that. He said that. No, he bragged about that:
"So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards farther back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."
And media members fawned.
"Can you believe Tiger knows what the difference in four yards feels like?! I wish I could do that!"
They (we) never considered that Woods might have done something illegal.
But he had.
It had nothing to do with the person who texted Augusta National about his drop, either. (We'll get to that in a second.) Alerting a tournament is supposed to be for rules that players couldn't have known they broke -- something like a double-hit chip that only shows up on television in HD. Or the movement of a ball while the player wasn't looking at it.
Players couldn't have known about those types of missteps -- nobody would if not for the moving pictures on your 50-inch big screen.
A simple ball drop, though? Woods could have known, and, my goodness, he should have. Or, at the very least, caddie Joe LaCava should have.
I talked to one golf writer on Saturday who also used to play. This person was aghast that Woods didn't know what he was doing.
This person said: "this drop is basic s---."
It really was.
Which leads us to what happened thereafter.
Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee, said they reviewed Woods' drop based on the notification that they got from a fan but didn't tell Woods:
"Having determined that we did not feel there was a rules violation, we did not talk to Tiger, so he completed his round, signed his scorecard, and the first day was over."
You know the rest -- Woods incriminated himself in his post-round TV interview with Tom Rinaldi when he talked about dropping two yards behind his original divot (this violated USGA Rule 26). Because of this, he played a misplaced ball and should have received a two-stroke penalty making his 1-under-par a 71 a 1-over 73.
He signed for a 71.
So, why wasn't he disqualified?
Ridley thought it would be unfair to DQ Woods because the committee didn't inform him of something they, at the time, didn't think was a bad drop.
They didn't give him a chance to sign the correct scorecard to begin with.
But Woods is still culpable. Just because he wasn't told that he might have done the wrong thing doesn't mean he didn't still do the wrong thing!
He said so himself after his round on Saturday:
"Absolutely, I made a mistake."
This is a basic ball drop we're talking about, and he royally screwed it up. Then he signed the wrong scorecard but was thrown a lifeline by the Masters competition committee because they felt bad about not telling him about reviewing the drop.
They invoked Rule 33-7, which states:
"A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted."
This was certainly an "exceptional individual case," and I don't totally blame them. I would have felt bad, too, if I'd kept information from Woods that would have helped him sign for the right score.
But, in the end, the golfer is liable above all.
Rule 6-1 in the USGA Rule book states that:
"The player and his caddie are responsible for knowing the Rules. During a stipulated round, for any breach of a Rule by his caddie, the player incurs the applicable penalty."
The irony is if the person watching had never notified Augusta National in an attempt to get Woods disqualified, he probably would have been disqualified. That person saved Woods' backside.
Even through all that, even though I'll always believe Tiger shouldn't have played on Saturday and Sunday, I'm sure glad he did.
If he hadn't, the story of Woods getting booted from the Masters would have overshadowed the gorgeous golf that we were treated to over the last three holes of play from Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.
That narrative would have still played out, but the story would have been Tiger. The story would have been how he was robbed of his chance at major No. 15.
Some have thrown the term "Masterisk" out there. Thankfully, we don't have to endure three more months of that.
Instead, there are no excuses. There are no asterisks.
There's just a well of wild Aussie fist pumps and many answers from the cold-blooded grandpa from Argentina for us to look back on.
Tiger was given a reprieve when he deserved none. And in the end, Scott and Cabrera stole his show.
It was fitting on a week rife with off-the-course stories that we ended with what we came to see.