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April 13, 2013
CRAIG HEATLEY: Good afternoon. You are all aware of an important and complex ruling. That ruling requires nothing less than complete transparency, and I've asked Fred to come down and answer any and all questions that you may have pertaining to that. So the floor is open.
FRED RIDLEY: I think it might be helpful just for me to provide a summary of the events that sort of led up to me being here today, and I appreciate your interest because this is an important decision. It's an important issues here at the Masters this year.
As we've indicated in the statement that was issued a while ago, yesterday afternoon while Tiger Woods was completing his round, we were made aware through a television viewer who called one of our rules officials that this person had felt that Tiger had not properly proceeded under the rules when he was dealing with the unfortunate situation on No.15 that he faced.
As we do in all of these situations, and we get dozens of these calls every Masters. You don't hear about them because most of them do not amount to anything. But we do get many calls each Masters. We look at each one. We read the transcript or the message when it's appropriate. In many cases we review video. So this is really a fairly normal occurrence during the tournament.
But in this particular case, we reviewed the video that had been presented to us of Tiger playing the 15th hole, of course his third shot hit the flagstick, went in the water, and then he dropped to play his shot. And after reviewing that visual evidence, and based on that only, the Committee decided that Tiger had proceeded appropriately and therefore would not be assessed a penalty.
In this particular case, Tiger at that time was somewhere on the 18th hole, he might have been on the 18th green. Clearly we wanted to finish that initial review before he finished his round because we wanted to talk to him if we felt like we had a problem, before he signed his scorecard.
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.
At approximately 10:00, a little bit after 10:00 last night, I received a message from CBS that Tiger had during one of his post‑round interviews made some statements about what was going through his mind during that ruling, and it had created some further doubt, at least in some people's minds, as to whether or not Tiger had, in fact, violated a rule.
I came back to the club. I was having dinner with my family at a house we have here in Augusta. I came back to the club along with Buzzy Johnson and Will Jones, and we went back to the tournament headquarters and reviewed the interview with ESPN. And during that interview Tiger had indicated that he had taken a couple of extra yards, I think were his words. I have the exact transcript back in the office and I'm sure you have it as well. And based on that, it raised some concerns in our minds.
We contacted Tiger's representatives and asked that we meet with him this morning. We did that approximately 8:00 this morning. Tiger was very forthright in his comments and his answers to questions that we had, and at the end of the discussion, he indicated that‑‑ and confirmed that he was trying to create a situation where he would effectively have a shot that was not going to go quite as far as his first shot did. I mean, that tells you a little bit about how good he is. And he said that he was going to dial it down a couple of yards and that he had taken an additional yard or so in order to create the distance that he wanted to create in that shot.
Based on that and based on his very forthright and honest answers to the questions that I had, 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. I also told him because we had initially made that determination‑‑ made the determination the previous day after reviewing the CBS video‑‑ I'm sorry, the ESPN video, not of his interview but of his round, that he, in fact, had not violated the rule and that we had elected to make that decision, had not spoken to him, that under Rule 33‑7 that there was ample reason not to impose the penalty of disqualification but to waive that penalty and impose a two‑shot penalty.
So those are essentially the facts, and I'd be happy to answer any questions.
Q. Do you feel now looking back on it that somebody should have at least mentioned to him that the drop on 15 could have been improper, because if you did review it, which you said you did and I'm sure you did, if you did review that drop you could see the divot in front, so it wasn't within inches, it wasn't‑‑ it was clearly a number of feet behind. So do you not feel that maybe it would have been worth asking him?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I think the‑‑ number one, the rule doesn't prescribe exactly what's right and what's wrong. Clearly it would have been better if Tiger had dropped the ball closer to his actual divot‑‑
Q. I think it says closest possible.
FRED RIDLEY: But I looked at that. I considered the circumstances. And in my best judgment, I thought at that point in time that Tiger had intended, in fact, to comply in accordance with Rule 26‑1(a), and that determination was made.
Now, I will say that other people may disagree with that, but the point is that our Committee looked at the information, we gave it consideration, and we felt that under those circumstances that Tiger had complied with the rules.
So at that point in time I chose ‑ it was my decision, and I chose, because it was a non‑violation, that I was not going to go down and tell Tiger that we had considered this and it wasn't a violation. I didn't see at that point in time that that really was going to add anything to where we were. So no, I did not do that.
Q. What did Tiger say? Why did he take it back along that line? Was he confused or what?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, it was clear to me that he fully intended to proceed under Rule 26‑1(a). He had several options. I think he mentioned in his post‑round interview that he went down to the drop area and he made some note of the grain and the way the grass was lying, didn't think he was going to get a very good lie in the drop area, so he walked basically back to his original spot.
And one of the other things that we noticed in the interview was that his caddie never moved, and I suspected, and I confirmed with Tiger this morning, that it looked like, Tiger, you may have asked your caddie to stay right there, and he said, yeah, that's exactly what I did. So it was clear at that point that he was proceeding back to the place where he played his original ball.
Q. So that sounds like he knowingly violated the rule.
FRED RIDLEY: I think that's something that you need to ask him. I think in his statement he said that was not the case, that he fully intended to comply with the rule and play from the spot that he played his prior shot.
I didn't see anything and he didn't tell me anything that would lead me to believe that he knowingly violated the rule.
Q. Why would he come in and tell us, "I needed two more yards," which he knew was a violation?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, again, I think you'll need to ask him that.
Q. I'm just wondering, obviously there's a lot of speculation and opinion that maybe he should disqualify himself, and obviously 33‑7, the revision two years ago, is protecting him to some degree. I'm just wondering in your opinion should 33‑7 protect him from not knowing the rule yesterday?
FRED RIDLEY: No, it shouldn't protect him from not knowing the rules, but what it should protect him from, and this is exactly the reason 33‑7 exists. It is to protect the player when the Committee takes some action, makes some decision. In this case it was a decision without further action, but nevertheless this was a Committee decision, and it's intended to protect the player from that in the event the Committee were to change its mind.
I mean, a good example of this would be if, in fact, I had gone down and I talked to Tiger and said, Tiger, look, tell me what happened. He said, well, I intended to go back and I dropped it in accordance with the rule and I intended to play under 26‑1(a). And we said good, and I left.
And later that night without any of this other information I sort of decided, well, gee, I don't think I made the right decision, I'm changing my mind.
Clearly in that case this 33‑7 would be applicable. In our view‑‑ and by the way, since making this decision, we have advised the governing bodies of the game of golf and the professional tours of our decision and the reasons as I'm explaining them to you, and they have concurred with our decision.
Q. In your role at this tournament and as an accomplished player, your thoughts about viewers calling in after the fact and your thoughts about every one of Tiger's shots being on television but not every player's every shot is on television?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I mean, I think that's just the time that we live in. You know, it's sort of the instant replay in football or baseball, and these players are under a microscope, particularly Tiger, and there are a lot of people out there that know a lot about the rules, think they know a lot about the rules, and so we hear from them quite often.
But it obviously creates more work for us, but that's okay, and we do try to respond. We do look at every one of these.
Q. Could you talk about how much kind of time elapsed over the process from when you determined that there was a violation of 26‑1 and how soon he would be covered under 33‑7. Secondly, is there not a spirit of 33‑7 directed toward things that only television can pick up?
FRED RIDLEY: Yeah, I don't know that. That certainly is one good application of it. I don't think that's necessarily the overall intent. Let's face it, committees make mistakes from time to time, and players are entitled to rely on what a Committee does.
In this case the Committee had made a decision, it's just that Tiger was not informed of it. Whether or not he was informed in my mind was irrelevant. We had made a decision before he finished his round, before he finished his scorecard, and I think he's entitled to be protected by 33‑7, and that's our decision, and others agree with us.
Q. Did you know when he came to the club this morning that if it reached that point that he already would not be disqualified based on that?
FRED RIDLEY: At that point, the 33‑7 issue had already played out. It was really a matter of understanding what was going through his mind and what his intent was in playing his shot to determine whether he was going to get a penalty at all. At that point it was either no penalty or a two‑shot penalty, but disqualification this morning was not even on the table.
Q. Just to clarify, if Tiger Woods had talked to you today and you felt based on his comments that he was intentionally trying to get an advantage, would you have at that point decided to disqualify him?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I mean, that certainly is a hypothetical, and I'd rather not get into that. But intent to violate the rules or knowledge of violating the rules was really not an issue here.
It was clear in my mind, as I said, Tiger could not have been more candid. His candor was clear and it helped us make a decision and it helped us make the right decision.
Q. Just to clarify, is the two‑shot penalty for an improper drop or is that a one‑shot penalty and something for the scorecard?
FRED RIDLEY: No, the two‑shot penalty is under Rule 20‑7 for playing from the wrong place, but it was a result of what ultimately was an improper drop. You know, there's a whole series of nuances of that rule, but this was one where the two‑shot penalty was appropriate.
Q. The Club does not have walking rules officials with the group. Has this prompted you to reconsider that as the other major championships have walking officials?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, that's not something we talked about. As it relates to the conduct of the competition, we look at every‑‑ if there's one thing about the Masters tournament, whether it's whether or not we're going to have chicken sandwiches next year or whatever, we look at everything. And we do that with the competition, so we'll be looking at this situation, what could we do in the future, is there any different processes we could employ. But yes, we look at the entire competition every year and try to get better.
Q. You guys got calls, which made the situation more complicated from your end, but from the player's end his responsibility is to sign for a proper scorecard which he didn't do. So on that basis I'm still confused as to why Tiger is still playing because typically he signed for a wrong scorecard, it's your responsibility to know the rules, you didn't know the rules, you signed for a wrong card and you get disqualified. Let's forget about your calls because that's not really in Tiger's head. He didn't know about it. I'm confused why he's still playing when he signed the wrong card.
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I think the issue‑‑ your question doesn't have anything to do with what happened after. It has to do with what happened before, and what happened before was that our Committee had made a decision and that Tiger, although he didn't know that decision, he was entitled to have the benefit of that decision when he signed his scorecard. And to me it would have been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him after our Committee had made that decision.
And by the way, our Committee consists of Jim Reinhart, who is an Augusta National member and a former Rules of Golf and chairman of the USGA; and Mark Russell, who is a Vice President of Competitions for the PGA TOUR, very knowledgeable rules officials.
But we felt it would have been prejudicial to Tiger to not have given him the benefit of that decision we made while he was still playing the 18th hole.
Q. Hindsight is 20/20, but do you wish now that you had spoken to Tiger so that you would have been absolutely clear on what did or did not happen, and going forward in a similar situation, will you try to speak to the player before making a decision?
FRED RIDLEY: There's not a day that goes by that there are not some things I wish I would have done differently.
Q. Obviously this was a very tough decision, but there's potential ramifications within the game that are enormous. Do you have any doubts about it at all and the possibility that it set a rather dangerous precedent in some cases?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I mean, I think that‑‑ I'm not so concerned about precedent because I think that‑‑ one of the reasons I wanted to come here today and talk to you ‑‑ and I'm glad so many of you are here because this is really important, but from what I've been hearing and seeing today, I think the situation and the facts, the rules, have not been fully understood. And so I think‑‑ and I take great comfort in the fact that we've advised the USGA and the R&A as well as the PGA TOUR and the European PGA TOUR of this decision. We've explained in just as much detail as you've heard, and they are 100 percent behind the utilization of 33‑7.
I mean, there's no question that Tiger should be penalized. That's not the issue. The issue is what should we do in imposing that penalty.
I'm pleased that the governing bodies and the Tours are in agreement with our decision. I think does it set precedent? I hope it sets good precedent because I think it is a good decision.
Q. Did you consult with the governing bodies before you came to your decision or was the concurrence after the fact?
FRED RIDLEY: As a courtesy to the governing bodies, we let them know that we were in the process of deliberating. The consultation really was among our Rules Committee.
Q. How many people reviewed the tape, and did you review the tape again after Tiger said what he said?
FRED RIDLEY: We reviewed the tape with Tiger. We did not review it‑‑ yes, we reviewed the tape after he said what he said in his interview. We reviewed the tape with him while we were speaking with him in person. We didn't review the tape further because we didn't have any doubt as to what happened at that point in time.
Q. Is there a concern on your part that the perception is going to be that you guys are treating Tiger differently or with special treatment?
FRED RIDLEY: Well, I can't really control what the perception might or might not be. All I can say is that unequivocally this tournament is about integrity. Our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity, and if this had been John Smith from wherever, that he would have gotten the same ruling, because again, it is the right ruling under these circumstances.
CRAIG HEATLEY: Thank you all very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports