The Strange Sequence That Led To Tiger Missing The Cut After A Spectator Tattled On Him

  • Glenn Davis

A lot going on in that headline, we realize. Let’s start with the basics. Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after shooting a 75 in the second round and finishing 3-over overall. It’s just the ninth missed cut of Tiger’s PGA career, and represents a pretty significant flameout for a guy who can reportedly command $3 million just to show up to one of these tournaments.

But the specifics are where things get weird: initially that 75 for the round was a 73, and that 3-over from the tournament was a 1-over – a score that would have been good enough to make it to the weekend. Those two extra strokes came on a penalty he was assessed for taking an improper drop on the fifth hole. He hit a bad shot into some rough terrain, took a look, and concluded his ball was embedded. He called Martin Kaymer, his playing partner, over to confirm, which Kaymer did for him. He took the drop. Here’s how it went down:

The problem: when Tiger took his shot, you’ll notice some dirt flew. Why’s that a big deal? Well…

[T]he European Tour’s Andy McFee determined that it was a sandy area to the right of the fifth fairway, meaning Woods was not entitled to a drop; he should have played it as it lay or taken an unplayable lie, a one-stroke penalty.


“Andy said the ball wasn’t embedded, because it was sandy based,” Woods said. “I called Martin over to verify it, and we both agreed it was. We thought it was embedded. But evidently it wasn’t.”

Actually, it was. But the issue is whether it was embedded in sand, from where no relief is allowed, according to Rule 25-2.

So one of the greatest golfers of all time misses a cut thanks to a rule that stumped not only him, but another former world No. 1 and major champion. But wait… how did McFee learn of Tiger’s possible violation? Here’s Devil Ball Golf:

Problem was, the drop wasn’t legal because the vines were set in what was considered a “sandy area,” and after a spectator mentioned something to a rules official, Woods was approached on the 11th hole and told he would be given a two-shot penalty[.]

So… he missed the cut because a fan told on him?! Could a scenario like this happen in any sport but golf? Granted, ESPN’s Bob Harig has a slightly different version:

A writer following the group asked a rules official about the situation…

OK, so, a little different from a random fan in that case, but that opens up a whole new can of worms: i.e. is it the writer’s place to potentially help determine an event’s outcome rather than remaining a detached observer? Yeah, it can be hard to bite one’s tongue, but if the writer was covering the event, [s]he put him/herself right in the middle of this story?

And a weird story it is. Not fake dead girlfriend weird, but one of the weirder golf-penalty-related stories you’ll see, short of losing the Masters over a scorecard error. And here’s the capper: Rory McIlroy missed the cut too. Remember how Nike just put out that shiny new ad starring Tiger and Rory? Not the greatest timing there – and in Tiger’s case, quite literally, he dropped the ball.