RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It is the final round of The Masters today. American Brandt Snedeker and Argentine Angel Cabrera share the lead at 7 under par. Pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods is four shots behind, which isn't bad considering what he went through yesterday. From Augusta, Georgia, NPR's Tom Goldman reports on how golf's greatest major almost lost its greatest player.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fore, please. Tiger Woods now driving.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: So he was going to play after all. A few hours before his scheduled tee-time, word spread that Woods may be disqualified. But then, news that he was only being penalized two shots for breaking a rule - 20-7 to be exact.
FRED RIDLEY: 20-7 for playing from the wrong place. But it was the result of what ultimately was an improper drop.
GOLDMAN: That's Fred Ridley, chairman of the Masters Competition Committee. Here's the thumbnail of what happened: Woods hits a ball in the water Friday. As per the rules, he drops a second ball and hits it. A TV viewer calls in and wonders whether it was a proper drop. It's supposed to be very close to where the first ball was. Officials review the tape, everything's cool. Then Woods does an interview and he says he dropped the ball a couple of yards behind the spot where he hit the original ball. Officials say not cool. Woods, a golfing genius, pleads ignorance.
TIGER WOODS: Evidently, I made a mistake and, you know, I incurred a two-shot penalty.
GOLDMAN: Debate raged Saturday, largely in the media and on Twitter - why wasn't he disqualified? He broke a rule and signed an incorrect scorecard, traditionally a disqualifying offense. The reason is officials now have more discretion, which Fred Ridley says he exercised because his committee initially decided Woods wasn't guilty and because they didn't talk to Woods before Woods signed his scorecard.
RIDLEY: And to me, it would've been grossly unfair to Tiger to have disqualified him.
GOLDMAN: And crazy, Ridley says, to think, as many did, that Woods was getting preferential treatment.
RIDLEY: You know, this tournament is about integrity, and if this had been John Smith, you know, from wherever, he would've gotten the same ruling.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
GOLDMAN: Doubtful John Smith would've gotten the same reaction yesterday as Woods did when he put his second shot on the green at the par-5 15th hole. Woods overcame the two-shot penalty and put himself in position for today. He's got several capable and confident golfers ahead of him, principally co-leader Brandt Snedeker, who spoke last night.
BRANDT SNEDEKER: I've spent 32 years of my life getting ready for tomorrow. And I am completely 100 percent sure that I'm ready to handle no matter what happens tomorrow. I'm going to be disappointed if I don't win, period.
GOLDMAN: Snedeker tees off last today with the goal of being first. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Augusta.
MARTIN: And this is NPR News.
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