AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The drama reached its peak Saturday long before the leaders teed off the third round of the Masters.
Tiger Woods, deemed to have taken an incorrect drop after hitting his third shot on No. 15 in the water during Friday's second round, arrived at Augusta National Golf Club early Saturday to explain his side to its rules committee. He was penalized two shots -- a 6 on the scorecard turned into an 8, his 71 morphed into a 73 and the gap to leader Jason Day stretched to five shots before Woods teed off.
Woods, who signed an incorrect scorecard as a result of the infraction, was saved from disqualification by a rule revised in 2011, which allows committee discretion.
The No. 1-ranked player in the world shot 2-under 70 on Saturday to enter the final round 3 under, four shots behind Brandt Snedeker and Angel Cabrera.
"Under the rules of golf, I can play," said Woods, who made a 10-foot putt to save par on the final hole. "I was able to go out and compete and play. ... The rules have changed."
Woods admitted during a Friday television interview to dropping his ball six feet behind where his original shot was played. Rules say the drop must be as near as possible to where the shot was first played.
Woods said he was angry after hitting his first shot in the water and not thinking clearly.
"It was pretty obvious," Woods said. "I didn't drop it in the right spot."
Fred Ridley, Masters competition committees chairman and former president of the United States Golf Association, said disqualifying Woods was never on the table, that Rule 33-7 protected Woods after the committee determined during Woods' round no rule was violated.
"We had made a decision before he finished his round, before he finished his scorecard, and I think he's entitled to be protected by 33-7," Ridley said. "And that's our decision. And others agree with us."
Ridley said he was made aware of Woods' post-round comments after 10 p.m. Saturday and returned to the club to review the interview. He contacted Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, and met with the top-ranked player in the world at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Woods before his round said through a statement posted to his Twitter account he thought he had acted correctly when making his drop.
"I didn't know I had taken an incorrect drop prior to signing my scorecard," Woods Tweeted. "Subsequently, I met with the Masters Committee Saturday morning and was advised they had reviewed the incident prior to the completion of my round. Their initial determination was that there was no violation, but they had additional concerns based on my post-round interview. After discussing the situation with them this morning, I was assessed a two-shot penalty. I understand and accept the penalty and respect the Committees' decision."
From a 2011 statement from the R&A and USGA after a revision to the Rules of Golf:
"This revision to Decision 33-7/4.5 addresses the situation where a player is not aware he has breached a Rule because of facts that he did not know and could not reasonably have discovered prior to returning his score card. Under this revised decision and at the discretion of the Committee, the player still receives the penalty associated with the breach of the underlying Rule, but is not disqualified.
In revising the decision, The R&A and the USGA confirm that the disqualification penalty still applies for score card breaches that arise from ignorance of the Rules of Golf. As such, this decision reinforces that it is still the responsibility of the player to know the Rules, while recognizing that there may be some rare situations where it is reasonable that a player is unaware of the factual circumstances of a breach."