Courtesy almost costs Woods a penalty

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Warning to friends and relatives of Tiger Woods: do not buy him a television set for his 30th birthday later this year. In fact, don't dare to turn one on in his presence. And whatever you do, don't put the Golf Channel on.

Warning to friends and relatives of Tiger Woods: do not buy him a television set for his 30th birthday later this year. In fact, don't dare to turn one on in his presence. And whatever you do, don't put the Golf Channel on.

As if it wasn't bad enough to be hauled in a few weeks ago to have his driver cleared by officials after one of his fellow professionals had spotted him on the box bombing tee-shots past rivals, Woods had to suffer being subjected to trial by video here for a putt that was all of an inch.

At least one "eagle-eyed" viewer - others might wish to apply a different adjective - rang officials at Augusta to query the world No 2's tap-in with the toe-end of his putter on the 14th green during Thursday's first round. Woods had simply been obeying the etiquette that says you should never stand on a partner's line, but in doing so almost incurred a two-shot penalty, which some purists here felt he was most fortunate to avoid.

The ruling concerns "standing astride or on the line of putt", stating that a player "must not make a stroke on the putting green from a stance astride or with either foot touching the line of putt or an extension of that line behind the ball". That priceless piece of gobbledegook basically means players cannot adopt a croquet-style stance. Sam Snead used to do as much to cure a case of the yips, but a law was introduced to outlaw this technique. Now, however, it appears hopelessly ill-conceived, as, indeed, the powers-that-be are acknowledging by being in the process of dropping the rule.

But that would have been little consolation to Woods if Will Nicolson, the tournament chairman here, had not thankfully seen sense. "The tape was inconclusive," he said. "No penalty will be assessed." Although, at least Woods would still have technically been in the competition as he had not yet completed the round that he finished off in 74 yesterday morning.

The Londoner Brian Davis was not quite so "lucky" a few years ago when he was disqualified in Germany for the same infringement and signing his card before it came to light. The European Tour's chief referee at the time, John Paramor, was bemused. "It seems almost illogical to penalise a player for doing something which saves time and prevents you standing on someone's line, which is being courteous," Paramor said. "It gains you no advantage all."

For Woods it almost gained him the exact opposite.

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