Commentary

Green Jr.: Tiger Woods gets free drop but pays price with poor play

Woods gets free drop but pays price with poor play

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.comMay 4, 2012 

— Tiger Woods can’t miss a cut anymore without a soap opera moment erupting.

Woods, who has developed an allergy to weekends at the Wells Fargo Championship, spent two days at Quail Hollow Club chasing his ghost before heading out of town having missed the cut with the likes of Daniel Summerhays, Cameron Beckman and Derek Lamely and other strugglers who apparently didn’t get the pre-tournament memo that birdies were as easy to find as cocktails at the club.

Of course, Tiger couldn’t just go quietly, his swing still lost in translation somewhere between Hank Haney and Sean Foley and all the mechanical thoughts rattling around his head like a broken gear box.

This is Tiger Woods, golf’s Kardashian.

Woods still had a realistic chance of making the cut Friday when he leaned into his second shot from 222 yards away, trying to create some lightning on the warm, muggy morning. The ball went left, way left, like something Bill from accounting might hit in the annual company golf outing.

Shotlink, the laser-measuring device used by the PGA Tour, surmised Woods’ ball missed the green by 65 yards. Not that anyone can say for sure where Woods’ ball eventually landed. And therein the drama.

How does a golf ball, hit by the most famous golfer on the planet and watched by a couple thousand spectators just vanish?

Most people in the vicinity of where Woods’ shot went probably had their heads covered (as did I) when the ball came rocketing up through the pines and holly trees. But where did it go?

Woods came up the hill and into the trees with a search party. By the time he arrived in his green shirt and dark gray pants, golf’s version of an Easter egg hunt was already under way. There was nothing on the ground but dirt and pine straw, almost all of it tamped down with little place for a golf ball to hide. There was no Nike ball with “Tiger” stamped on its side.

Where’s Geraldo when you need him?

There were as many opinions about where the ball went as there were pine trees in the area. Fans couldn’t agree on which tree (or trees) the ball hit. Several people said they definitely heard the ball hit the ground. Another said he saw a pine cone fall but not a ball.

As Woods and his search party fanned out, trying to beat the five-minute allotment players have to find a ball, there was no golf ball to be found.

If you’re into conspiracy theories, it’s worth noting that Woods hit his second shot from a grassy knoll. Go figure.

Geoff Ogivly, one of Woods’ playing partners, was standing on the right side of the fairway near the green, opposite where Woods’ ball went into the trees.

“It hit the tree and kind of drops down,” is how Ogivly saw it. “I’m undecided just where it dropped because it’s behind the people, but it’s over there somewhere.”

Spectator Stephen Crosby said he was near where the ball landed.

“The ball came through the trees; it came down right here,” Crosby said, still standing in the trees left of the fifth green. “When it hit (the ground), 12 or more people came through here, and just when I got to it, they went off that way (pointing toward fourth fairway on other side of woods) in a group in a hurry.

“I saw it when it hit and bounced just like that. By the time I got up to this area, they came through this area right here (pointing to area where Tiger dropped) and went through with the ball out that way – it had to be.”

Crosby was one of the two men PGA Tour official Mark Russell talked with in determining how Woods should proceed. Another man told a similar story of seeing the ball land then disappear when some fans gathered around it.

Others would later say they never saw the ball come out of a holly tree, but given the opportunity to tell their story to Russell and Woods, no one volunteered. Russell said he ruled out the possibility of the ball lodging in a tree, based on the evidence he was given.

Only the men who say they saw the ball hit the ground then disappear spoke up while Woods stood and listened.

 ” Russell said. “I’m thinking all the time, if you can’t find the ball, the ball is lost. But based on the evidence we had, somebody must have picked the ball up the way I see it.”

Had Russell deemed the ball lost, Woods would have been forced to replay the shot, taking a stroke penalty, and hitting his fourth from the fairway. Instead, Russell gave him a free drop in the pine straw, Woods pitched his third onto the green and two-putted for anything but routine par.

Immediately, some speculated Woods got a favorable ruling because he’s Tiger.

“Based on the evidence we had, I didn’t see anything else we could do,” Russell said. “I would have been more wrong telling him he had to go back.”

Woods, after looking for his ball, stood and listened while Russell handled the matter.

“We looked around for a while and then Mark came over there and analyzed the situation and what’s going on,” Woods said. “We gave him all the information. The two gentlemen participated in the conversation and we dropped it as close as we could to where they thought it was picked up. So that was it.”

The mystery may never be solved but the case was closed.

“Betcha find it on eBay tonight,” someone yelled as Woods walked onto the fifth green.

Might be right.

Green: 704-358-5118

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