After a controversial decision by the tournament officials to allow Tiger Woods to continue to play after he signed an incorrect scorecard, it was probably a good thing the world No 1 did not win at Augusta National, writes Steve Elling.
For Tiger Woods, the 'Masterisk' is averted at Augusta National
In retrospect, perhaps the best thing that happened at the Masters is what did not happen at the Masters.
Tiger Woods did not win.
That is not a knock on the reigning world No 1, but a simple recitation of evidence.
Because fallout shelters, flak jackets and buckets of sunscreen could not have prepared the sport for the radioactive aftermath if he had won for the fifth time at Augusta National.
Imagine the anger, outcry and catcalls – all of which happened Saturday, when news of his divisive rules violation in the second round was being discussed in chat rooms, living rooms and television studios around the planet.
On Twitter, his perceived preferential treatment by Augusta National rules officials prompted mythical villagers to grab pitchforks and torches.
One writer named it the "Masterisk Tournament", a barbed rendering predicated on the possibility that if Woods were to win, it would stand as the most controversial major-championship result of the televised era – worthy of an asterisk in record books and subsequent explanation.
After Woods received a favourable ruling, players including the former world No 1s David Duval and Nick Faldo publicly called for Woods to withdraw to protect the integrity of the game. Other tour players joined the argument on both sides.
Inarguable facts: Woods unwittingly made an improper penalty drop, admitted it, and thus signed an incorrect scorecard.
Roughly 999 times out of 1,000, that scenario means an automatic disqualification. After 17 years as a pro, he should know the game's basic rules.
Arguable facts: Augusta National officials dropped the ball at least twice by failing to recognise the rule violation when it was first called to their attention for review, then declining to discuss the issue with Woods before he signed his card.
Club officials charitably elected not to disqualify Woods for their own blunder, and trotted out a seldom-used rule that allowed for his reprieve.
Given Woods's reputation and drawing power, the "discretionary" decision fast became synonymous with "favouritism."
Indeed, Woods broke a rule and signed an incorrect scorecard, while officials blew a ruling and then failed to discuss the matter with Woods. Purists screamed: Since when do four wrongs make a right?
The fact that Woods ultimately received exactly the penalty he deserved – a two-shot assessment – did not much matter. The majority perception was that he had received unfair dispensation.
Would it have been more just to send him home? It remains highly debatable either way. But nobody needed the harrumphing and hand-wringing that would have resulted if Woods had won.
Already the most polarising figure in the sport, the taint from a Woods victory under contentious circumstances could have lasted for decades. He does not need the additional stigma, and neither does the game.
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