(Getty Images photo)
By John Strege
It is no small task to fill 5 1/2 hours of pre-game show and sustain interest, but on that note Golf Channel on Saturday morning was handed a winning trifecta ticket: Tiger, the Masters and controversy.
The news that Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty for taking an illegal drop on the 15h hole in the second round of the Masters provided ample fodder to fill the time with analysis and debate.
The leader in that clubhouse was Brandel Chamblee, who at the outset of the show, even before the penalty was assessed, argued that Tiger should "call this penalty on himself, to disqualify himself for signing an incorrect scorecard."
Woods had failed to take a drop as near as possible to the point from which he had hit his previous shot that wound up in a pond. Woods instead took his drop at least a yard behind the spot, while later admitting he did so for a competitive advantage.
Even after the two-stroke penalty was assessed, Chamblee held his ground.
"This is going to be the most controversial thing that follows him around for the rest of his career," he said. "This is a flagrant, obvious violation. Tiger, if he has read the rule and I'm sure he has by now, and he has seen the video and replay on it, it is incumbent on him to say he is in violation of 27-1A and disqualify himself. Anything else is frankly unacceptable."
He was not alone. David Duval wrote on Twitter that, "I think he should WD. He took a drop to gain an advantage."
Nick Faldo's opinion echoed Chamblee's, at least initially.
"This is dreadful," Faldo said. "Tiger is judge and jury on this. He said he moved the ball back two yards to gain the right yardage. The rule clearly states you have to drop it as close as possible to the original point of play. There was absolutely no intention to try to drop that as close to the divot. That's a breach of the rules, simple as that.
"He should really sit down and think about this and the mark this will leave on his career, his legacy...I think Tiger would gain massive brownie points if he stood up and said, 'you know you're right guys. I have clearly broken the rules and I'll walk. See you next week.'"
Each member of a studio panel -- Brad Faxon, Olin Browne and John Cook, the latter a close friend of Woods -- also agreed with Chamblee. "Even if they said you could play, I'd go [put the clubs away and] slam the trunk," Cook said.
Dissent came from Frank Nobilo, who argued that rules call for a two-stroke penalty and that, perhaps awkwardly the tournament committee ultimately got it right.
Chamblee had the final word: "Three players this year on the PGA Tour have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. It happens all the time."
Whatever side on which you come down, it was a spirited analysis and debate on a complicated issue that in an odd way simply heightened intrigue for a tournament that needs no hype.
Faldo on CBS
Late in the CBS' telecast of the third round, Faldo offered this on Tiger and the ruling:
"My instincts as a pro from my era, and I know some of my fellow pros would agree, that if you break the rules, sign an incorrect scorecard you're disqualified or you disqualify yourself. But we're in a new era now under new rules. Tiger's playing rightly under the new rules. I know myself, and some of the old pros, we have to accept that now."
Butch Harmon: "I believe he should have been DQ, he broke a rule and signed his card. They gave him a 2 shot penalty"