Tiger Woods Gets Talmudic Defense at the Masters

The Times reported that golfer Tiger Woods was penalized for an illegal ball drop at the Masters at Augusta, but was not disqualified.

He was not disqualified based on a clever Talmudic interpretation of the golf rules. Although he did violate one rule, another rule says that he need not be disqualified for that violation based on his intent and the intent of others at the time of the infraction and at the subsequent time of his signing his scorecard for the round.

The Times' explaination makes us wonder whether the PGA soon will be hiring Talmudic rabbinic authorities  to help them interpret their own complex codes of rules:
...On the 15th hole, Woods’s third shot hit the flagstick and rolled off the green and into the water. After taking a one-stroke penalty, Woods dropped his ball in the fairway, a few feet behind his original divot to give himself a more comfortable distance to the pin for his wedge shot. It was a good tactic — his ball stopped 3 feet from the pin — but it also violated Rule 26, which states that when choosing to drop near one’s original divot, a golfer should play his ball “as nearly as possible” at the spot from which the first ball was played.

“You know, I wasn’t even really thinking,” Woods said Saturday. “I was still a little ticked at what happened and I was just trying to figure, ‘O.K., I need to take some yardage off this shot.’ “ He added, “Evidently, it was pretty obvious I didn’t drop it in the right spot.”

Before Woods finished his second round, a television viewer texted a Masters rules official to call attention to the infraction. The rules committee, led by Fred Ridley, reviewed Woods’s drop and saw nothing wrong. In a television interview after his round, Woods said he purposely dropped the ball two yards behind his first divot, which raised some questions in Ridley’s mind.

Ridley spoke with Woods on the phone Friday night and met with him at the club on Saturday morning. After hearing Woods’s explanation, Ridley said, “I told Tiger that in light of that information that we felt that he had, in fact, violated Rule 26 under the Rules of Golf and that he was going to have to be penalized.”

Woods could have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. In allowing him to remain in the field, the Rules Committee invoked Rule 33-7, which allows a penalty of disqualification to be waived or modified in exceptional cases. The rule was instituted in 2011 to protect the players from retroactive disqualifications in instances in which armchair rules officials called in from home, as happened Friday, to report incidental violations that can be picked up on high-definition telecasts, like touching a twig on a backswing or a ball oscillating on the green.

“If it was done a year or two ago, whatever, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play,” Woods said. “But the rules have changed, and under the Rules of Golf I was able to play.”

The committee’s decision not to disqualify Woods, who has 77 tour wins, for hitting his ball from the wrong place reinforced how the Rules of Golf, once as black and white as records on a page, have grown blurry. From the definition of a legal putting stroke to the enforcement of slow play, there has been confusion about the way to interpret and apply the rules....

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