I was hesitant to write this because the rules violation that I
called on Esteban Toledo at the Funai Classic, which resulted in
his disqualification, has already created enough controversy.
(Last week Esteban was quoted saying that I had "no integrity.")
The reality is, Esteban made an illegal drop, yet I've become the
bad guy. It's time to set the record straight.
On the final hole of the Funai's second round, Esteban hit his
tee shot down the left edge of the fairway. I noticed that his
ball was in an encircled area of ground under repair, in front of
a drain. Esteban notified me of his intention to take relief,
which I acknowledged, but my attention was on my own shot, as I
had a tough lie in a fairway bunker. After hitting onto the
green, I turned in time to see Esteban swing. He was hitting from
the right of the circle, in the fairway, but I had no reason to
believe this was not the proper point of relief. Mostly what I
was thinking about was my 30-footer because I knew I had to bury
it to make the cut. I missed--the 10th time this year I was above
the cut line by a single shot. We signed our cards and exchanged
pleasantries, and I left the course frustrated with my play.
On the hour drive home my caddie, Mike Moore, and I were going
over the round, as we typically do. He said he was surprised that
Esteban had dropped to the right of the circle, and that's what
gave me reason to rethink what had happened. The following day we
went back to the spot where Esteban had played his shot, and it
became questionable in my mind that he had made a legal drop.
That night I called Esteban. I felt it was important to get his
account. Toward the end of our hourlong conversation I asked if
he'd go back to the spot with me the next morning before he
played. He said no. That left me no other choice but to contact a
rules official, which I did on Saturday evening. On Sunday
morning I got up early and again drove back to the course. I went
the 18th fairway one more time to recheck the drop area, because
I wanted to be certain. Then I conferred with two rules
officials, who agreed Esteban may have made an illegal drop.
After they spoke to Esteban, he was assessed a two-shot penalty
for an improper drop and then DQ'd for signing an incorrect card.
Pretty soon the incident was the talk of the Tour, in part
because earlier this year, in Tucson, it was brought to my
attention after the second round that my playing partner Brandel
Chamblee may have made a bad drop. I immediately called an
official for a clarification, and Brandel was DQ'd.
I've been on Tour since 1991, and nothing like this had ever
happened to me before. I was left with no choice in both
situations, because we are bound by the rules to protect the
field and integrity of the competition. I'm getting bashed for
upholding the rules, but I know in my heart I've done the right
COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS O'MEARA/AP (DAWSON) FACE-OFF On Monday, Dawson was notified by the Tour that he isbeing reviewed for conduct unbecoming a professional and issubject to a fine and suspension because of the incident withToledo (inset).
COLOR PHOTO: ERIK S. LESSER/AP (TOLEDO) [See caption above]