Photos show Tiger Woods may not have deserved a two-stroke penalty

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty and received a mountain of criticism after taking an illegal drop on the 15th hole of Friday's Masters that sent the venerable tournament in chaos.

The question now, however, is whether he actually committed a violation at all, or instead was the victim of a false confession.

The Augusta Chronicle on Sunday printed two photos by staffer Michael Holahan of Woods' two chip shots from the 15th fairway. The first hit the flagstick and rolled into the water, forcing Woods to take a one-stroke penalty and then drop his ball "as nearly as possible" to his original location.

The Chronicle circled various divots in the 15th fairway to show Woods' second shot was in almost the exact same location as the first.

While the photos may not be conclusive evidence and they will no doubt be picked apart, Tiger does appear to be standing within inches of where he took his first shot, not the two yards that he himself thought he had moved.

Holahan maintained his location for both shots, offering a clear comparison. Television replays, on the other hand, came from different locations as an ESPN cameraman on the course set up in slightly different locations.

Masters scoring officials were not immediately available for comment. Tiger's agent, Mark Steinberg, was shown a copy of the picture while watching Tiger on the back nine Sunday and declined comment.

"They made a ruling and we've moved on," Steinberg said.

Tiger wanted to move on after he finished the Masters tied for fourth at 5-under, four shots behind eventual winner Adam Scott. He said despite seeing the photos and not being certain how far behind the original drop he was, he insisted there was a violation.

"I saw the photos, I was behind it," Tiger said. "It was certainly not as close as the rule says."

It’s essentially the conclusion to back and forth drama that at times overwhelmed the tournament.

The Masters said that scoring officials were alerted of the possible rule violation by a television viewer. Their initial review of the film concluded that nothing untoward occurred.

[Related: TV viewer's call leads Masters officials to penalize Tiger Woods]

When Tiger finished his round he was asked about the drop by the media.

"I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards further back and I took, tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit," Tiger said. "And that should land me short of the flag and not have it either hit the flag or skip over the back. I felt that that was going to be the right decision to take off four right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly."

That admission that he purposely moved the ball two yards back caused the Masters to reopen the investigation and call Woods to the course on Saturday morning. He was retroactively assessed a two-stroke penalty, yet avoided disqualification, which was also an option.

Many golf traditionalists, broadcasters and columnists assailed the decision. They also called on Tiger to step down from competition under a strict interpretation of golf's rules and traditions.

He instead played on. He was also asked for an explanation of his thought process in making the mistake.

"You know, I wasn't even really thinking," Tiger said. "I was still a little ticked at what happened, and I was just trying to figure, okay, I need to take some yardage off this shot, and that's all I was thinking about was trying to make sure I took some yardage off of it, and evidently, it was pretty obvious, I didn't drop in the right spot."

Was Tiger so ticked and not thinking that he believed he dropped in a spot that wasn't where he actually dropped?

Or did he intend to go two yards back, only to actually shoot from the proper location. That would put golf's already arcane rules into the ultimate quandary – can you be penalized for intending to violate a rule even if you didn't actually violate it?

The new photos – perhaps convincing to some, perhaps easy to dismiss by others – just adds a new chapter to what was already one of the strangest controversies in the tournament's illustrious history.

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