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Tiger Woods dropped the ball by not disqualifying himself at Masters

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,Golf,Kevin Dunleavy

Tiger Woods should be happy he didn't make a run at the leaders in the final round of the Masters. Any further examination of how he and tournament officials handled his illegal drop would have cast them all in a bad light and forever damaged a game whose very essence is honesty and integrity. An asterisk attached to a Woods victory would have been a blot -- on his reputation, on the motives of Augusta National and on the sport.

Ninety-nine percent of the time in golf, no one is watching. It's just you, your ball, your clubs and your conscience.

But if you happen to be Tiger Woods, everybody is watching. If any other player in the field had committed the same violation, it likely would have gone undetected. But all the eyeballs on Woods are precisely why he needs to be golf's example-setter.

Because it's the Masters and because it's Tiger Woods, ill-informed opinions were flying fast and furious this weekend. In many cases, comparisons were made to other sports. But golf is not like any other sport. It is a singular pursuit in which competitors are required to call violations on themselves.

For those who missed it, what Woods did was admit to improving his lie. He dropped his ball further from where he should in order to give him an easier shot. There is no gray area. This is known as cheating. Whether he did so knowingly, casually or out of ignorance of the rules doesn't matter. He gave himself an advantage, and whether he knew it at the time or after the fact, Woods should have disqualified himself as many before him have done.

Kudos to Woods for owning up to it. But then it was up to him to do the right thing, and he didn't.

It shouldn't have been left to Augusta National to insist on a DQ. That might have happened had it not been for all the negative press officials received the previous day when 14-year-old Guan Tianlang was slapped with an unnecessary one-stroke penalty for slow play. Disqualifying Woods would have opened up the club to charges of racism and a torrent of criticism from the outside.

But none of the outcries would have come from golfers, guided by the rules and their conscience.

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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