Story from CBS Sports.com / Kyle Porter
I know, I know. You’re going to bludgeon me to my Internet death for posting this, but, man, the evidence is pretty damning. And I’m not a Tiger-hater or a Tiger-fanboy. I appreciate his talents for what they are — one of the two best golfers ever.
I also know in this case, “the evidence” includes only one semi-shaky replay from a potentially questionable angle. But still, I think Tiger Woods took a drop on No. 14 on Sunday that wasn’t even close to being correct.
Woods, as you probably know by now, hit his tee shot in the water on the 14th hole with a two-stroke lead. He yanked it pretty hard on a hole that he has historically played poorly. He went on to make a double-bogey 6 to fall back into a tie for first before playing his last four holes in 1 under and winning the tournament by two.
There are a few things going on here. The first that you need to know is that Woods chose to drop where the ball “crossed over the margin of the hazard.” Woods and playing partner Casey Wittenberg determined it crossed over where he dropped, but that would have had to have been a hell of a hook to be correct.
The second thing going is that Woods didn’t even see where it crossed. Watch the 1:35 mark — he looks away from the drive, can’t bear to watch it sinking into the lake down the left side of the fairway. He can’t know where it crossed the hazard because he didn’t watch it.
So that means the determination is solely on Wittenberg. After his round, Wittenberg told the media, “I saw it perfectly off the tee. I told him exactly where I thought it crossed, and we all agreed, so he’s definitely great on that. There is no doubt, guys. The ball crossed where he dropped.”
Maybe, but the video evidence sure seems to show something different.
The PGA Tour, to its credit, immediately released this statement:
“Without definitive evidence, the point where Woods’ ball last crossed the lateral water hazard is determined through best judgment by Woods and his fellow competitor. If that point later proves to be a wrong point (through television or other means), the player is not penalized by Rule 26-1 given the fact that a competitor would risk incurring a penalty every time he makes an honest judgment as to the point where his ball last crosses a water-hazard margin and that judgment subsequently proves incorrect (Decision 26-1/17).”
So, again, since Tiger wasn’t looking, it’s all on Wittenberg. And the rule basically says “just be honest, because we can’t penalize you later.” To be clear, there will be no recant from the PGA Tour after the fact. That’s not happening.
This is not as egregious as the Augusta mistake because there’s so much ambiguity going on here (camera angles, true flight path, etc.) but it’s pretty close.
What I find interesting is the guy who made this video (filmmaker John Ziegler — who is trying to clear Joe Paterno’s name) said hitting a pop-up hook is physically impossible, but Woods said in his post-round interview that’s exactly what he hit:
“I hit a pop-up big high hook, so it started way right, and then it went way left. So it had a lot to room to it. We decided it crossed there, and I played it.”
I’m not a physics expert or a video expert, for that matter, but the film sure doesn’t make it look like it started way right. And the guy who made the video is right, NBC announcer Mark Rolfing would have said it was a monster hook (and it would have had to be a monster hook) if that was the case.
The other argument in play is that even if Woods would have dropped back by the ladies’ tee box (the last margin of the hazard it seemed to cross), he still probably would have made a 6 or 7, which means he would have still probably won the tournament by one or two.
But, as is usually the case with these things, you never know.