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World bodies back Augusta ruling not to disqualify Woods

Tiger Woods of the U.S. walks to the 14th tee during final round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club
Tiger Woods of the U.S. walks to the 14th tee during final round play in the 2013 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club

(Reuters) - Golf's governing bodies ruled on Wednesday that Augusta National officials made the correct call not to disqualify world number one Tiger Woods for an improper ball drop at the Masters.

The Royal & Ancient (R&A) and United States Golf Association (USGA) released a joint statement explaining in lengthy detail the controversial events that occurred during Woods's second round and sent the year's first major into a frenzy.

Woods controversially avoided disqualification from the Masters when, after failing to add strokes to his scorecard for an improper drop, officials used discretionary powers to hand him a two-stroke penalty.

The 14-times major champion, who draws massive TV ratings and was a hot favorite at Augusta National, earned his reprieve after a review by officials of a penalty drop he took during the second round at the par-five 15th last month.

Aided by a recently amended rule announced at the 2011 Masters, Woods was not disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard because his infringement was based on television evidence.

The R&A and USGA determined the original ruling was based on exceptional facts and officials were right not to disqualify Woods but stressed that players are still under an obligation to return a correct scorecard and understand the rules.

The sport's governing bodies also maintain that officials are under no obligation to make players aware of any possible rules infraction.

"The Woods ruling was based on exceptional facts, as required by Rule 33-7, and should not be viewed as a general precedent for relaxing or ignoring a competitor's essential obligation under the rules to return a correct score card," the R&A and USGA said in a statement.

"Further, although a committee should do its best to alert competitors to potential rules issues that may come to its attention, it has no general obligation to do so; and the fact that a committee may be aware of such a potential issue before the competitor returns his score card should not, in and of itself, be a basis for waiving a penalty of disqualification."

"Only a rare set of facts, akin to the exceptional facts at the 2013 Masters tournament ... would justify a committee's use of its discretion to waive a penalty of disqualification for returning an incorrect scorecard."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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