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Masters officials stick with same rules as last year


By Julian Linden

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Augusta National officials say they are sticking with the same rules they used at last year's Masters despite the controversy over the penalty handed to Tiger Woods for an infringement.

Woods was slapped with a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop during the second round of last year's tournament after his approach shot to the 15th hole ricocheted off the flagstick into the water.

The world number one could have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard but officials used their discretionary powers to let him play on.

He eventually finished tied for fourth but the club's ruling triggered a hot debate about the way the rules had been applied and later prompted an investigation by the Royal & Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association (USGA).

The two golfing bodies later released a statement saying that the correct decision had been made and Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said on Wednesday that those same rules would stand in 2014.

"I think that we made the right decision. I believe that the golf world has affirmed that," he told reporters at his annual media address on the eve of the tournament.

"I know that some of you disagree with the decision. Nevertheless, I think it is important that we communicate quickly with people, as we have a serious matter under deliberation, and we're going to do that."

Payne also said there would be no changes to the way rules officials were assigned during the championship, which also became a talking point last year when Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang was penalized for slow play.

The 14-year-old was handed a one-stroke penalty for taking too much time even though there was no dedicated official following his group.

The rarely enforced rule threatened his chances of making the cut but he scraped in by one shot and won the Silver Cup as the leading amateur.

Although the Masters uses more officials than the other majors, they do not assign officials to every group, placing them instead at strategic points on the course.

Payne said tournament officials had conducted a thorough review of every aspect of the tournament but had decided to retain the same system they had used in previous years.

"We have approximately 60 officials on the course, significantly more than any other tournament," Payne said.

"We think we do it pretty good with the familiarity they acquire for the specific holes; some with as many as six officials on it.

"So we think the way do it is pretty good, which is not to say that we would never consider a change. But we kind of like the way we do it now."

(Editing by Gene Cherry)

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