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Tiger Woods should have withdrawn

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Tiger Woods takes a drop after his approach shot hit the flag stick and rolled back into the water at the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National, April 13, 2013 (Credit: John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated)

Yesterday’s Masters Golf Tournament made history, as Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the sport’s most prestigious championship.  But the tournament will long be remembered for another reason as well: Tiger Woods’ now-infamous rules infraction.

To summarize: during Friday’s round, Woods hit a shot off the flagstick and into the water.  Following Rule 26-1, he was required to “drop” his next ball “as nearly as possible” to where he played the first shot.  The Masters Rules Committee determined that he did so, and he signed his scorecard accordingly.

However, after the round, Woods told an interviewer that he wanted to place the ball two yards back of the original location to make sure his shot landed short of the flag.  This meant that Woods did not drop his ball “as nearly as possible,” violating the rules.  He would have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, but a recent rule change permitted him to take a two-stroke penalty instead, since he had not been made aware of the violation before he signed his card.

To his credit, Woods immediately accepted the penalty without complaint.  Several players came to his defense, since no official brought the illegal drop to Woods’ attention.  However, Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion, said that Woods should withdraw from the tournament: “For me, this is dreadful.  Absolutely no intention to drop this as close as possible.  Simply, a breach of rules. . . . He should consider the mark this will leave on his legacy.”  Another golf analyst said, “This is going to be the most controversial thing that follows him around for the rest of his career.”  He claimed that for Woods to do anything other than disqualifying himself “is unacceptable.”

It is of course possible that Woods did not know or understand Rule 26-1.  Surely he could not have expected to get away with cheating, since television cameras were recording his every move.  Nor would he have told the interviewer what he did if he was trying to hide his action.

But to me, intent is not the point.  Woods violated the rule, intentionally or not.  Since his breach was not caught at the time, the rules allowed him to continue playing.  But imagine the message he would have sent if he had voluntarily withdrawn.  He would have shown that golf is bigger than any player and that integrity is more important than winning any tournament, even the Masters.

Do you agree or disagree?  Please share your thoughts in our comments section.  And remember Solomon’s wisdom: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).  When last did you pay a significant price to protect your integrity?  Would you do so today?