DUBLIN, Ohio - Not like he felt like he needed it, but Fred Ridley agreed Wednesday at Muirfield Village Golf Club that he felt some sense of vindication when the U.S. Golf Association, the R&A and six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus all voiced support for the decision he and the Masters competition committee made in permitting Tiger Woods to continue competing in last month's tournament despite signing an incorrect scorecard.
"Yes, that [the support] was good," said Ridley, a member of the Captains Club, which advises on the conduct of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village and selects the tournament's honoree each year.
Ridley, chairman of the Masters competition committee and a former USGA president, was the point person at Augusta National GC charged with explaining how Woods had escaped the penalty of disqualification for a player who violates Rule 6-6d, signing an incorrect card.
In the second round of the Masters, Woods had made a bad drop after his approach into the 15th hole hit the flagstick and caromed into the water in front of the green.
The committee reviewed the drop and initially decided before Woods signed his card that he had not made an improper drop, but Woods later admitted in a television interview that he had not taken his penalty drop in the same area from which he had played his original stroke. Because of the extraordinary circumstances, the committee invoked Rule 33-7,which holds that a "penalty of disqualification may in an exceptional individual case be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted."
Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty prior to the third round but was allowed to continue, and the four-time Masters champion ended up T-4.
In the wake of that decision, Ridley and the Masters came under fire and were accused of giving Woods preferential treatment. Two weeks later, on April 24, Nicklaus said the Masters had done the right thing, given the circumstances.
"Could they have disqualified him? Probably," Nicklaus said. "But you've got all the best rules heads together and they said that they thought there was no intent to do anything [improper] and that two strokes was a strong enough penalty. And you move on."
On May 1, the USGA and R&A issued a lengthy statement that, in essence, supported the decision of the Masters committee.
"We knew that the USGA and R&A supported the decision right away, as soon as we let them know. But because it was of such intense interest in the golfing community they felt like they wanted to clarify their position on it," Ridley said. "As for Jack, we all know Jack has strong opinions. He and I haven't talked about it, but I respect his opinion. I've known Jack for a long time."
Ridley added that the Masters ended on a high note, with Adam Scott defeating Angel Cabrera on the second hole of a sudden death playoff with darkness descending on Augusta National GC.
"It was a great tournament, we had a great finish and we had a fine winner," Ridley said.
(Getty Images photo)