Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - Tiger Woods' hill to climb for a fifth Masters title just got steeper.
Woods has been assessed a two-stroke penalty for an illegal drop on Friday and will start the third round of the year's first major at 1-under-par, five shots behind leader Jason Day.
Speculation of a possible disqualification was rampant Saturday morning after Woods' penalty drop on the par-5 15th hole Friday came into question.
Woods' third shot hit the flagstick and rolled back into the water that fronts the green. He had options under Rule 26-1 that included playing from a drop area or going back to the original spot and taking a drop from "nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played." Woods said in interviews afterward that he went two yards farther back, which made the drop questionable.
"I went down to the drop area, that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain, it's really grainy there," Woods said on Friday about his decision on the 15th hole. "And it was a little bit wet. So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop.
"So 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. 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 was going to be the right decision to take off four right there. And I did. It worked out perfectly."
Masters officials released a statement Saturday morning after meeting with Woods.
"In preparation for his fifth shot, the player dropped his ball in close proximity to where he had played his third shot in apparent conformance with Rule 26. After being prompted by a television viewer, the Rules Committee reviewed a video of the shot while he was playing the 18th hole. At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the Rules.
"After he signed his scorecard, and in a television interview subsequent to the round, the player stated that he played further from the point than where he had played his third shot. Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.
"The subsequent information provided by the player's interview after he had completed play warranted further review and discussion with him this morning. After meeting with the player, it was determined that he had violated Rule 26, and he was assessed a two-stroke penalty. The penalty of disqualification was waived by the Committee under Rule 33 as the Committee had previously reviewed the information and made its initial determination prior to the finish of the player's round."
In the past, Woods would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
However, a rule change announced in August 2011 protects a player from automatic disqualification after signing an incorrect scorecard if that player unknowingly violated a rule. A two-stroke penalty can then be assessed instead.