The 6-Shot Penalty for Bad Drop at the 1981 Masters

The 2013 Masters will always be about Adam Scott's victory, but also a little bit about the controversial Tiger Woods ruling. Woods took a bad drop and then, the following day, was docked two strokes for playing from the wrong place. He could have been disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard, but wasn't, thanks to a ruling by the Masters' rules committee, chaired by Fred Ridley. Ridley was all over TV on the Saturday of the tournament explaining and defending the ruling.

Return with me now to the 1981 Masters to consider another Augusta National ruling on a bad drop. Or bad drops, rather.

Keith Fergus, who was a young player of promise at that time, shot a 70 in the first round to be among the leaders. Well, that's what his scorecard showed when he entered the scorers' tent. When Fergus exited the scorers' tent, there was a 76 on his scorecard after he added six penalty strokes. Six!

What happened? On two holes — the 8th and 17th — Fergus' ball stopped inside the gallery crosswalk across those respective fairways. Fergus knew that in PGA Tour events, those crosswalks were treated as ground under repair. So both times, he picked up his golf ball, took it behind the crosswalk, and dropped.

But The Masters in 1981 (this changed in later years) did not treat those crosswalks as ground under repair. If a golf ball stopped in one, no matter what the lie was like, that was just rub of the green. Play it as it lies.

So after the round, The Masters' rules poobahs of the time gave Fergus one penalty stroke each for the two times he lifted his golf ball in the crosswalks, then 2-stroke penalties for each of the two times he played from the wrong place after dropping outside those crosswalks. Six penalty strokes.

Despite that, Fergus still managed to make the cut, but finished well back. His career never really caught fire, either, as some thought it might, although he did win three PGA Tour titles.

Six years before his Masters rules issue, Fergus had reached the championship match of the 1975 U.S. Amateur, but lost in the final. Who do you think beat him? Fred Ridley. Yes, that Fred Ridley.

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