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One of the main storylines to come out of The Masters this year was the two-shot penalty assessed to Tiger Woods following his second round. The move by Augusta National to penalize Woods -- and not disqualify him for signing a wrong scorecard -- drew a variety of opinions throughout the golf world and beyond. In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty wrote Woods “didn’t deserve to be disqualified, even though that is the standard penalty for signing an incorrect card.” The Masters officials “messed up by not telling him.” They “don’t have rules officials walking with each group here.” Daugherty: "You can’t DQ a guy for signing a bad card, if he thinks he’s done no wrong, and you haven’t informed him otherwise.” Club officials “made the right call” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/14). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote to DQ Woods at that “juncture would have been outrageous since the Masters was as guilty as he was” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/14). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote under the header, “Masters Makes Right Call In Penalizing, But Not DQing, Tiger Woods” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/13). In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote if Woods “screwed up, the Masters screwed up more.” It is “easier to make a case that Woods shouldn’t have been penalized at all than it is that he should’ve been DQ’d” (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 4/14). The AP's Jim Litke wrote under the header, "Woods Plays A Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card." Woods may have "behaved badly," but the "green jackets in charge of the Masters behaved worse" (AP, 4/13). GOLFDIGEST.com's Weinman & Myers noted one "big miscue was by the rules officials who reviewed Woods' drop on the 15th hole, ruled out any improprieties, then opted against even broaching the topic with the player before he finally signed his scorecard." Had that part "happened, Woods would have still been assessed a penalty, but the club and player would have been spared a fair amount of embarrassment along the way" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/13).
PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT FOR TIGER? SPORTS ON EARTH’s Shaun Powell wrote the idea that The Masters “gave Tiger preferential treatment because he’s back to being the No. 1 draw in the game doesn’t pass the smell test for a few reasons.” There was “no financial or any other gain by allowing him to play after he signed the wrong scorecard.” There also was “no damage done to the game or the tournament or Tiger’s character, only to Tiger’s score” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/14). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel asked, “Had this been Lucas Glover committing the same error would he have been DQd, or given a two-stroke penalty?” Engel: “You would hope the penalty would be the same for any golfer, and given the nature of the infraction it does seem like a couple of strokes is the appropriate measure” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/13). The Masters Rules Committee Chair Fred Ridley said, “I can’t really control what the perception might be or might not be. All I can say unequivocally is that this tournament is about integrity. Our founder Bobby Jones was about integrity and if this had been John Smith from wherever, that he would have gotten the same ruling because, again, it is the right thing under these circumstances” (TORONTO STAR, 4/14).
MAKING A BUSINESS DECISION? In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro wrote there is "no way the Masters was going to allow itself to lose its star draw and mar its perfect tournament at its perfect course" (N.Y. POST, 4/14). NEWSDAY's Mark Herrmann wrote Masters officials have “long been creative and flexible when it comes to big stars.” Former golfer Ken Venturi “never has gotten over what he considered a bad call in Arnold Palmer’s favor on an embedded ball 55 years ago.” Golfer Brad Faxon said that if he were in Woods’ situation there “would have been no” exceptions to the rule, such as the one Woods received. He said, “I’d be packing my trunk” (NEWSDAY, 4/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote the business of golf did a "very businesslike thing" when it permitted Woods to continue "despite what appeared to be a disqualifiable rules violation" (WSJ.com, 4/13). In Toronto, Ian Hutchinson wrote under the header, "Drop-Ball Fiasco Shows That Woods Gets Special Treatment" (TORONTO SUN, 4/14). In Boston, Ron Borges wrote under the header, "Augusta Drops The Ball." The ruling was a "kind of shady manipulation of the letter and the spirit of the law" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/14). In L.A., Bill Dwyre wrote the committee's decision may have been "totally driven by fairness and 'integrity.'" But in an "increasingly cynical world, one that embraces conspiracy theories, it's tough to avoid a frown here" (L.A. TIMES, 4/14). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan wrote under the header, "Masters And Woods Both Take The Low Road." While the Masters and Woods "adhered to the letter of the rules, the series of events made Augusta National smell about as bad as it does when the groundskeepers spread fertilizer to soak up a heavy rain" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/14). GOLFCHANNEL.com's Rex Hoggard wrote the decision to "intervene and forgo disqualification" may have been the "right thing" and possibly even justified. However, there was "no escaping the pall the ruling has cast over the Masters, if not all of golf" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/13). In Augusta, Scott Michaux wrote under the header, "Woods Ruling A Failure By All Parties" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 4/14).
WITHDRAWING WOULD HAVE NOBLE THING: GOLFDIGEST.com’s Dave Kindred wrote if Woods had “done the right thing Saturday morning, he would have admitted his mistake was so egregious that he should withdraw from the tournament.” It would have been “the best public relations move of his career” (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/13). Golf Digest’s Dan Jenkins wrote on his Twitter feed, “Tiger missed a chance to enhance his legend. It would've been bigger for him to withdraw with honor than to continue playing under a cloud” (TWITTER.com, 4/13). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote Woods “could’ve gained a lot of respect by withdrawing from the tournament after acknowledging a rules violation clearly intended to give himself an advantage.” He “should've withdrawn because he is Tiger Woods” (CLEVELAND.com, 4/13). The N.Y. POST's Cannizzaro wrote Woods "could have improved” his image “immeasurably had he done the honorable thing and withdrawn” (N.Y. POST, 4/14). The L.A. TIMES' Dwyre wrote as Woods has “come back to the golfing greatness that defines him, he has shown signs of caring about repairing” his image. That made a voluntary withdrawal by Woods at The Masters “a two-foot putt” (L.A. TIMES, 4/14). GOLF.com’s Cameron Morfit wrote Woods’ situation “looks bad,” and he has “already lost in the court of public opinion, in a landslide” (GOLF.com, 4/13). In San Diego, Tod Leonard wrote under the header, “Woods Lets Green Jackets Take The Fall” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote Woods “shouldn't be playing on Saturday, but I'm not so sure he should disqualify himself. I'm of the opinion that Augusta made the right decision in the most wrong way possible. ... Sure, it would be a good idea for Woods to withdraw, PR-wise, but as we've seen so many times before, Woods has defied the PR wisdom, and he's as popular now as he's ever been post-hydrant” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/13).
CUT HIM SOME SLACK: In N.Y., George Willis wrote there was “no reason for Woods to pull himself out of the major championship.” In fact, it was “more important to the sport he continued to play” (N.Y. POST, 4/14). ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski wrote it would have been “the noble thing for Woods to withdraw," but it "wouldn't have been the practical -- or correct -- thing to do.” Woods “screwed up, but the rules committee compounded the mistake by not doing its due diligence after the TV viewer called in to a rules official” (ESPN.com, 4/13). CBSSPORTS.com’s Will Brinson wrote the idea of Woods needing to withdraw was “absolute garbage.” One argument for Woods’ withdrawal “involves the honor and integrity of the game of golf.” Brinson: “I do understand the integrity that goes along with playing golf. It's a gentleman's game, and there's a high level of accountability for one's own actions that go along with playing it. But Tiger isn't kicking a ball out of a bush or throwing an extra Nike from his pocket onto the fairway without anyone looking” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/13). GOLF.com’s Michael Rosenberg asked, “Are we really going to say that Woods should disqualify himself because the whistle blew a few hours later?” Rosenberg: “A little common sense won’t kill the game. What happened this weekend is not an affront to golf. It’s called progress” (GOLF.com, 4/13). In Tampa, Gary Shelton wrote under the header, “Mild Punishment Fits Tiger’s Masters crime” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/14).
INNOCENT MISTAKE? In DC, Thomas Boswell wrote it is “hard to believe” Woods “could not know” the rule he broke. But it is “far harder to believe that Woods would deliberately break a rule, benefit by it, get away with it, sign his card for it, stand in fourth place in the Masters after 36 holes and then voluntarily tell the world every pertinent fact that could get him penalized or disqualified from the Masters.” Woods “just screwed up” (WASHINGTON POST, 4/14). SPORTS ON EARTH’s Powell asked if Woods “knowingly cheated when he signed the wrong scorecard, why would he admit to it before 30 million people? Doesn’t make sense” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 4/13). In San Jose, Mark Purdy wrote Woods was “assessed a two-stroke penalty for being honest in a TV interview” (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 4/14).
COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED: GOLFCHANNEL.com’s John Feinstein wrote Woods should have withdrawn, but "part of Masters tradition is that no one is allowed inside the ropes during play other than players, caddies and -- of course -- TV technicians and cameramen.” There are “no walking scorers; no media and no rules officials.” If there had been a walking official with Woods he “almost certainly would have been able to make sure Woods understood his options after his third shot at 15 hit the flagstick and spun back into the water” (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 4/13).
Golf fans call tournament officials to report possible rule infractions they see on TV broadcasts "nearly every week," but that is "unheard-of in other sports," according to a front-page piece by Pennington & Crouse of the N.Y. TIMES. The practice is resurfacing following Tiger Woods' two-shot penalty during his second round at The Masters Friday, when a viewer alerted Augsta National of a possible rule violation. Masters officials said that "hundreds of viewers contacted the club with suspected rules infractions." Most often, they "call the club, whose phone number is easy to find on the Internet." Those calls are sent to the tournament HQs office, and the details of the calls are "recorded and documented with the specifics of the suspected violation scrupulously noted and then passed on to the Masters rules committee." Each case is "investigated." The history of TV whistle-blowers in golf "goes back at least 25 years." Golfer Bubba Watson on Saturday said, "Our sport is the only one you’d ever allow viewers to do that. They’re definitely not calling about missed balls and strikes during a baseball game or if someone’s getting away with holding during a football game.” He added that PGA Tour players were "approached about viewer-generated rules investigations" with such "frequency it was shrugged off in the players’ locker room." Pennington & Crouse noted other major sports "do not have a system in place that would allow viewers at home to contact the ruling authorities and point out overlooked transgressions." But in golf, which is "largely policed by players who routinely call penalties on themselves, the interloping armchair referee is welcomed, or at least listened to" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14). Masters Rules Committee Chair Fred Ridley said the tournament receives "dozens of these calls every Masters." Ridley: "You don't hear about them because most of them do not amount to anything." But in Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote what is "remarkable, in this case, is that the caller probably saved Woods from being disqualified" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/14).
WHY IS IT EVEN ALLOWED? In Newark, Steve Politi asked, "Why does golf even allow that? Does anyone else think this is totally ridiculous?" Imagine that "happening during an NFL game." Woods is being "punished here because he’s on TV more than anyone else in the sport." He has been "hit with a two-stroke penalty because he’s a celebrity who goofed up and said the wrong thing with the cameras rolling" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/14). Watson on Saturday said, "A high-profile player has the camera on him all the time. Like me today, there were no cameras on me today. Everybody could care less what I was doing. They were worried about what Tiger was doing" (USATODAY.com, 4/13). In N.Y., Filip Bondy wrote under the header, "Method Of How Tiger Woods Was Penalized At Masters Shows Golf Is Going Off Course" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/14).
Baylor Univ. C Brittney Griner is "expected to be the No. 1 overall draft pick" in tonight's WNBA Draft, and she has “become a focal point of a league that has a new logo, an extended television deal with ESPN and an orchestrated drive to promote three highly visible rookies,” according to Jeré Longman of the N.Y. TIMES. ESPN President John Skipper said that for WNBA viewership and attendance to grow at a desired level, the league “must enhance its marketing efforts." Skipper, "They’ve got to have some players who people really care about.” Longman wrote that is why Griner is “so important," as perhaps no other player “has entered the WNBA with such visibility.” Opponents last season “averaged 3,642 more fans for their home games” against Baylor. The WNBA and ESPN are “hoping that Griner will create similar buzz as a pro.” The Phoenix Mercury, who hold the No. 1 pick in the Draft, are “scheduled to appear in 6 of the 14 regular-season games carried by ESPN and ABC.” Univ. of Minnesota Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport Exec Dir Mary Jo Kane said that it is “rare for female athletes to receive endorsements, especially in team sports, and particularly among those who do not play up their feminine side, yet significant shifts are occurring in the appreciation of women.” Griner said of being central to the league’s rebranding, “I’m up for the challenge. I changed stuff in college basketball, I guess you could say, so I’m up for it.” Meanwhile, the WNBA and ESPN are exploring plans for "innovations like cameras worn by referees, lower camera angles and increased viewer access to practices and locker rooms” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14).
GOOD THINGS COME IN THREES: In Baton Rouge, Ted Lewis writes the WNBA is counting on Griner’s marketability “to lift the league’s profile.” The WNBA also should “get a boost” from Univ. of Delaware F Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame G Skylar Diggins, who are “expected to follow Griner in the draft" with picks by the Chicago Sky and Tulsa Shock. ESPN “promoted the trio as ‘3 To See’ throughout their senior seasons.” ESPN.com’s Mechelle Voepel said, “ESPN isn’t telling the league who to draft and when. But I think that’s pretty well known who the top three players were, and getting their name recognition out there doesn’t hurt” (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 4/15). Della Donne said, “We have the ability to grow this league. Not just us, but the rest of the girls who are being drafted tonight, have a really big interest in growing the league and getting some more attention on it.” Diggins: “We want to bring excitement to the game and attention. I think we all had great followings (in college), and we want to use that for the WNBA to help promote it and market it. It's such an exciting time, and so much buzz surrounding the WNBA this year and this season that it brings an excitement to us” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/15).
MERCURY RISING: In Phoenix, Odeen Domingo wrote there is “a lot Griner can offer” the Mercury. The "buzz and the curiosity factor" around Griner "should make basketball fans -- Mercury and Suns, alike -- flock to US Airways Center." The Mercury's goal is “to sell out the arena’s lower bowl, about 10,000 seats.” All the “TV hype and the praise from NBA superstars and owners have helped Griner’s profile.” Mercury President & COO Amber Cox said, “We’ve been able to maximize (that attention) and cross over some Suns fans into Mercury season tickets for the first time.” The team’s total season-ticket revenue has “already passed last season’s.” The Mercury “look poised to better last season’s average home attendance of 9,167” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/14).
The IIHF wants to sign a deal with the NHL regarding participation in the '14 Sochi Games by May 3, the opening day of the World Championship, and there are "lots of people who see a path to that," according to the CBC's Elliotte Friedman. The NHL, NHLPA, IOC and IIHF met Friday, and "everyone I spoke to from a bunch of different sides said it was a positive meeting." Cost estimates put travel, "depending on how many planes they use," at $4-7M, while player insurance was quoted at $7-10M, "depending on whether or not there's going to be camps.” Friedman: "The biggest issue is some promises (were) made about 'here's how the hotels are going to look, this is how the transportation is going to work.' Those hotels, a lot of them are not going to be built until October, so I think that the players in the league are going to say, ‘We’re going and we'll just have to pray that this gets done properly.'" The CBC's Glenn Healy said the “biggest thing here is the IOC is going to take the number for charters and the cost for insurance and they’re going to try to trim those numbers." Noting the total will reach around $15M, Healy said, "Good luck, IOC. The numbers can’t be trimmed.” But the “big issue is none of this is on paper.” Healy: "Until both sides see the devil in the details this is going to be a difficult one to handicap." However, Healy said the NHL would play in the Olympics "no question" ("Hockey Night In Canada," CBC, 4/13).
As MLB rosters this season see a record-low number of African-American players, it is “mind-boggling” that the story of late Baseball HOFer Jackie Robinson "has not inspired more African-Americans to play baseball," according to Nick Cafardo of the BOSTON GLOBE. But it is not that the league “isn’t trying to find solutions,” as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has “put together a panel of baseball people and dignitaries in other fields to come up with some answers.” The league’s RBI program “has been a noble undertaking,” and has “seen more than 200 of its kids drafted to major league teams.” But that “hasn’t created that interest of a kid gathering up his pals and heading over to the park for a pickup game.” The "visual part of it is also important," as Heat F LeBron James "is everywhere." He is "all over billboards and TV and YouTube." Cafardo: "Who is baseball’s most prominent African-American athlete? Is it Matt Kemp or Giancarlo Stanton or Derek Jeter or Justin Upton or Prince Fielder or Adam Jones? Are they the centerpiece of our visual being? No.” Every time an African-American athlete “breaks onto the baseball scene, you wonder, will he be the one to spark the interest?” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/14). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan writes the "representation of American-born black players in baseball hasn't dwindled to the point Jackie Robinson would look at the sport and not recognize it." Prince Fielder, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Derek Jeter, David Price and Andrew McCutchen "are stars, not just recognized by fans but embraced and loved" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/15).
PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Rockies CF Eric Young Jr. said, "You flip through a bunch of channels, you'll see LeBron do a commercial or Dwyane Wade. That's what kids relate to, that's what they see. That's what they might flock to. I'm always in the business of trying to branch out and get the game to more eyes, new eyes." Rockies CF Dexter Fowler said that the “lack of quality fields and equipment in the inner cities also is a major reason fewer black kids give baseball a try” (DENVER POST, 4/15). Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks said, "I think with African-Americans at a young age, the glamour sports are basketball and football. Kids look at it as an old-fashioned sport. Playing baseball isn't the hip thing to do" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/13). Former MLBer Eric Davis said of the issue, “The reason there’s a steady decline is the black male’s fault because he’s not around. Baseball is a sport that has to be introduced to you through a male figure.” He added, “Baseball has never had to market its game to kids. That’s why baseball is in the position where it’s having these questions” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/13).
MLB's investigation into South Florida-based Biogenesis of America found "no physical evidence to connect" Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez to payments to a former clinic employee "to prevent the release of potentially damaging documents," according to sources cited by Quinn & Fish of ESPN.com. A source said that a N.Y. Times report that MLB investigators had evidence Rodriguez bought documents from a Biogenesis employee "was not correct." Sources said that clinic founder Anthony Bosch paid former employee Michael Porter Fisher $20,000, but "refused to pay an additional $4,000 that Fischer said he was owed." Sources said that Bosch "informed Rodriguez that Fischer was threatening to expose the operation, and Rodriguez gave Bosch at least $4,000 'to make it go away.'" Sources said that MLB's "ability to call witnesses it has paid money to for information could be called into question (or compromised) in any potential court or arbitration proceeding" (ESPN.com, 4/13). In N.Y., Michael Schmidt in the original report cited sources as saying that former Biogenesis employees and associates told MLB that Rodriguez "arranged to purchase documents from the clinic to keep them out of the hands of baseball officials." That led MLB to "conclude that other players linked to the clinic would also attempt to buy documents to conceal incriminating evidence and accelerated baseball’s own efforts to purchase as many documents as it could." A source said that MLB may "ultimately choose to focus on testimony it has obtained from a number of the clinic’s former employees rather than the documents if it proceeds with efforts to discipline Rodriguez or other players." Sources said that the former employees "were paid for the time they spent talking with baseball’s investigators ... with the payments not believed to have exceeded several thousand dollars" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/13).
MIDDLE MEN: In N.Y., Thompson, Madden, O'Keeffe & Vinton cited sources as saying that an associate of Bosch "made the documents available" to MLB and players named in the documents. The sources said that the associate "used two South Florida businessmen to contact MLB officials and the players to see if they would be interested in bidding on the documents." One source described the transactions by Rodriguez, MLB and possibly other players as "a situation where these people are out there soliciting bids, treating this stuff like it's baseball memorabilia." Sources said that Rodriguez "allegedly took up the offer ... and sent his own intermediary to retrieve the documents." MLBers who "buy or attempt to buy incriminating documents could be suspended" for violating the league's drug program (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/13). In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt wrote, "One thing is clear: MLB is not going to give up on this investigation until every possible avenue has been explored" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL, 4/14).