Much as we all want to celebrate everything that is good about the Masters, sometimes things do go a little wrong. Here are our top 7 Masters controversies…
Our top 7 US Masters controversies:
1958 – Arnold Palmer – the great relief debate
Playing the 12th in the final round with Ken Venturi in 1958, Palmer’s ball plugged beyond the green. Palmer felt he was entitled to relief under a Local Rule in effect that week; the Rules official on the scene, Arthur Lacey, disagreed.
After a brief argument, Palmer played his ball and made a double, before announcing he would play a second ball, then let the Rules committee decide. He made par with that ball, the committee agreed that the three should stand and Palmer went on to win by a shot.
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1968 – Roberto de Vicenzo – the famous scorecard gaffe
The Masters’ most famous controversy, certainly until Tiger’s 2013 incident, and yet in many ways, not a controversy at all but simply a high-profile application of one of golf’s harsher Rules.
Tommy Aaron absent-mindedly marked de Vicenzo down for a par on the 71st hole when he had actually made birdie, and the Argentine didn’t spot the error before signing his card. The Rules committee had no choice but to accept the score as signed for under the Rules, despite millions witnessing the birdie.
Many incorrectly believe it cost de Vicenzo the Masters. It didn’t – it cost him the chance of a play-off the following day with Bob Goalby, the ultimate beneficiary of the incident.
2004 – Ernie Els – seeking a third opinion
If you don’t get the answer you want initially, keep persevering until you do. That would seem to be the case following this incident with the Big Easy on the 11th in 2004.
Two Rules officials denied him a drop away from a pile of tree limbs deep in the woods miles left of the 11th fairway, so he took his case to the chairman of the tournament committee, Will Nicholson, who sanctioned a drop.
Els salvaged bogey and seemed on course for a play-off late on Sunday until Phil Mickelson’s late grandfather nudge his winning birdie putt in from on high.
2009 – Padraig Harrington – moving ball that sparked a change
When Padraig’s ball clearly moved as a result of a gust of wind on the 15th green in the second round in 2009, it was one of the final straws that would spark a Rule change in the 2012 revisions.
Harrington’s problem was that he had grounded his club, so although he had clearly not caused it to move, he was deemed to have done so under the Rules at the time.
It was the final catalyst for a change to Rule 18-2b, under which Harrington would not have been penalised today in similar circumstances.
2009 – Rory McIlroy – just smoothing the sand?
Rory came perilously close to disqualification for a breach of Rule 13-4 when he seemed to kick out in anger after failing to extricate himself first time from the bunker to the right of 18 in the second round.
McIlory, who had already signed his card before the incident came under investigation, claimed he was just smoothing the sand, perhaps a touch more vigorously than usual; others felt it looked a little more than that.
In the end, after reviewing video footage and speaking to McIlroy, Masters officials exonerated the Northern Irishman and he was free to proceed in round three.
2013 – Guan Tianlang – the slow 14-year-old amateur
If you’re going to pick on someone for slow play, why on earth pick on a 14-year-old Chinese amateur rather than one of golf’s millionaires?
That’s what many thought when John Paramor took the 14-year-old Chinese sensation to one side to advise him he was being penalised one-stroke after making par on the 17th in round two.
Some argued it was just the letter of the law being applied as he had already been warned earlier in the round; others argued that making an example of a 14-year-old amateur when many other guilty parties go unpunished every week was a poor show.
2013 – Tiger Woods – an illegal drop
Probably nothing would have happened here if Tiger hadn’t said what he said.
Having seen his third shot rebound unluckily off the flagstick into the water on the 15th in round two, he then proceeded to drop not as near to the original spot as possible, but a couple of yards further back to prevent a repeat episode.
It was an unsavoury episode, with the only good news that Tiger did not go on to win, as it would have been a victory forever under a cloud in many people’s eyes.