My Shot: David Eger

Making The Call On Rules

It's David Eger on the line, and he has plenty of stories beyond being the guy who blew the whistle on Tiger at the Masters

David Eger

Baxter is capable of sniffing out trouble; David Eger has a nose for rules violations.

October 2013

AS PLAYERS so often say in interviews, I've been fortunate. In 1978 I turned pro and played the PGA Tour for three years, with little success. I just wasn't good enough. I got my amateur status back and, with help from my mentor, the late Clyde Mangum, got a job with the PGA Tour as director of tournament administration. I spent 10 years there. In 1992 I moved over to the U.S. Golf Association as senior director of rules and competitions. After four years at the USGA, I went back to work for the PGA Tour. All this time, I played a lot of amateur golf. I was disappointed not to have won the U.S. Amateur, but I won the U.S. Mid-Amateur, North & South Amateur, Azalea Invitational and a couple of Crump Cups, and also played the Walker Cup. I then spent five years getting ready for the Champions Tour. That's where I've been since 2002. Four wins, a good living, great wife, nice life.

I PLAYED IN THE MASTERS and officiated there several times. In 1987, I was assigned to the par-3 fourth hole with the legendary Billy Joe Patton. Nothing ever happens, rules-wise, at the fourth hole. After several groups had come through with nothing happening, Billy Joe says, "Let's make this interesting. Let's bet a quarter on every tee shot, closest to the hole." I said, "You're on." After a while, Billy Joe starts increasing the number of wagers—closest to the hole out of the bunker, whether a guy will two-putt, and so forth. We had a great time. Now, the man in charge of the rules committee was Ward Foshay. A past president of the USGA and Augusta National member, Foshay was a very proper guy. He started off a meeting by saying, "It's come to our attention that certain rules-committee members are betting on the tournament." Billy Joe and I looked at each other and gulped. I saw myself never being invited back, and I think Billy Joe feared getting thrown out of the club. "We do not approve, gentlemen," Foshay said. Thankfully, he let it pass.

FOSHAY REPORTEDLY had a spirited on-course rivalry with Hord Hardin, another USGA president who went on to be chairman at Augusta National. Both had been good players in their day, but age had taken its toll, and neither guy could putt a lick. One day, Foshay began copying Sam Snead's croquet-style putting method and, rolling the ball like the Ward Foshay of old, began dominating their battles. He chided Hord endlessly. Unfortunately for Foshay, Hord was about to become USGA president. Ward woke up on Jan. 1, 1968, and discovered that croquet-style putting was no longer permitted under the Rules of Golf. It's part of USGA lore that Hord engineered abolishment of the method to regain his personal dominance over Ward. Is it true? Who knows?

ON FRIDAY OF THIS YEAR'S MASTERS, my wife, Tricia, went to the lawn-and- garden store and filled the back of the SUV with tomato plants, herbs and potting soil. She wanted help planting the stuff, so I was watching the tournament intermittently. I watched Tiger tee off on 14, when he stood at five under par, then left to manhandle a 50-pound bag of potting soil for Tricia. When I got back in front of the TV, Tiger was putting out for par on 16. When the announcer said, "Tiger remains at four under par," I naturally wanted to see how he'd made a bogey. So I rewound the DVR to his play at the 15th. I watched a replay of him ricocheting his third shot off the flagstick and into the water and thought, He must have hit a great shot to make a 6, and rewound further to watch his fifth shot. That's when I noticed the divot hole a good distance in front of the place where he'd played that fifth shot. Then I watched his third shot again, and I see no divot hole. I replayed the sequence again, and then again. Tricia asked for help with the tomato plants. I said, "Honey, you're going to have to wait."

I KNEW IMMEDIATELY that unless somebody intervened before Tiger signed his card, there was a 100-percent chance he would be disqualified for signing for a score lower than what he shot. Tiger clearly didn't play his fifth shot from "as nearly as possible" from where he'd played his third shot, as required by Rule 26-1a. It was imperative that Tiger correct his hole score to an 8 instead of the 6 he'd made. So I phoned Mickey Bradley, a PGA Tour rules official who I knew was working the Masters. I'd seen Mickey a couple of weeks before at a Champions Tour event I'd played in. Mickey, who was assigned to the 13th hole, told me he was finished for the day and was in his car. I told him what I'd seen and urged him—strongly—to reach Mark Russell [rules official] or Fred Ridley [chairman of the Masters competition committees] and notify them. At that point, I figured it was a done deal. I assumed Mickey would call Mark or Fred, the officials would take another look, and Tiger would be surrounded by green coats when he came off 18. They would interview Tiger as to what happened on the 15th, he'd adjust his score from a 6 to an 8 for violating Rule 20-7 [playing from a wrong place], and that would be it.

WHEN I WATCHED TIGER'S INTERVIEW with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi, explaining his thought process on moving back to take the drop at 15, it was clear Tiger didn't know he'd violated a rule. His score of 6 appeared to stand. He obviously hadn't been interviewed by anyone on the rules committee before he signed. I was perturbed but went to sleep knowing I'd done what I was supposed to do. I didn't know at that point what would happen next. The next morning I played golf at Quail Hollow. When I came off the course at about 10:45 a.m., the whole thing had blown up. Tiger was assessed a two-stroke penalty instead of being disqualified under Rule 33-7, because the rules committee had erred.

Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today