Editorial by John Ziegler

The Case That Tiger Woods Took a Another Bad Drop While Winning the TPC

5/13/2013

Yesterday Tiger Woods won his biggest tournament since the “accident.” At times, his game looked the best that we have seen it since the glory days of the turn of the century. There was a time when such a win would have personally given me much joy.

However, he hit one bad tee shot which could have lost him the tournament and may have cost him a bit of his integrity.

On the 14th hole Woods hit a shot that was so bad that he almost immediately winced and turned completely away from it. NBC announcer Mark Rolfing, who was standing right behind Tiger and who was doing the play by play, knew just as quickly as Tiger that the ball was headed for a watery grave. Rolfing, without a moment of hesitation, stated, “Oh, that is not good. He hit it fat… high… ballooning… left… and I believe wet.” He got all of that out while the ball was still well in the air.

Rolfing immediately expressed concern that the ball has not crossed the margin of the hazard which would mean that Woods would have to either have to rehit his tee shot (hitting three, which easily could have brought a seven or eight on the hole into play) or drop on the short side of the pond so that there was no way he could get close to the green with his third. The first replay from the blimp appeared to show that Rolfing was obviously correct and his colleague Peter Jacobson even said, “You’re right Mark, he’s going to have to drop way back.”

Johnny Miller then asked Rolfing if Tiger’s ball crossed any of the water and Rolfing indicated that he hadn’t gotten a good look but that it seemed to him that it was “over the water” well before where Woods was currently standing. Woods would then continue to walk a good distance farther towards the hole (in the opposite direction of where Rolfing indicated he should be going) before picking his spot to take a penalty drop.

At this point, I expected NBC to show the overhead replay several more times, but they never did. Instead, they showed one ground level shot which made the point that Tiger chose for his drop seem to be at least plausible, but hardly certain.

After Tiger hit his third shot up near the green, Johnny Miller, clearly not being able to restrain himself any longer, said that it seemed to him that Tiger’s drop was “really, really borderline,” and that he “wouldn’t be able to live with himself” if he didn’t express his opinion.

At that point, both Rolfing and Jacobson (both of whom, it should be noted, are far more vulnerable to the impact of upsetting Tiger than Miller is) suddenly did a near 180 turn and backed up Tiger’s drop as “ok.”

Rolfing’s reversal was particularly bizarre because his first comments indicated both that he was not sure and that Tiger needed to drop on the other side of the water. After Tiger’s drop, Rolfing suddenly was sure that he saw exactly where Tiger’s shot had gone and that he could live with where Woods took the drop. Amazingly, the PGA Tour would actually cite Rolfing’s second story (while omitting the first version) as substantiation that the drop was acceptable.

Miller then meekly reiterated his doubts about the drop and then NBC never mentioned the issue again. After Tiger won, Woods did three one on one interviews and was, remarkably, not even asked once about the topic.

The PGA Tour immediately released as statement saying that the drop was not a situation that could be reviewed after the fact by officials, even if further evidence emerged that it was incorrect. This statement was absolutely right about the rules and was interpreted (incorrectly in my view) as a vindication of the drop. In reality, if the Tour didn’t have its own doubts about the drop they never would have released any sort of statement and they certainly would not have added the part about the potential of further evidence showing that the drop was indeed improper.

At this point, I was rather miffed that this issue was obviously being swept under the rug by a golf media which has shown itself all too often to be very willing to protect their cash cow Tiger Woods at all costs (even, at times, to his own detriment). I went back and watched the tape several times and became convinced that there was a lot of evidence to indicate that the drop was indeed “bad.” I put together this makeshift video (which had 60,000 views in less than a day) late last night explaining my basic position on this and it has gotten picked up by numerous outlets, including Yahoo.

The best I can tell, since Woods clearly turned away immediately, the most powerful (and perhaps only) evidence that the drop was actually proper came from Casey Wittenberg, who was Tiger’s playing partner. Wittenberg said that he was sure that he saw the shot and that it took a hard hook to the left which crossed the line of the hazard right where Tiger dropped.

No matter how you look at this, Wittenberg is the greatest playing partner in pro golf history.

First of all, he must have amazing eyesight and powers of depth perception. Secondly, he may be the only pro golfer who, while he is getting ready to hit his own tee shot (which followed Tiger’s) was intently watching his partner’s ball when he has been trained for years to rely on officials to worry about that sort of thing even for his own shots.

Is it possible that Wittenberg is indeed correct? Sure. But to be clear, here is the list of things which have to be true for Wittenberg’s account to hold up.

 

Tiger had to hit the first “pop up” duck hook (a shot that goes against the physics of the golf swing) in known history for the ball to have crossed land and still end up where it did.

Tiger decided to immediately look away from the shot because he somehow knew that, even though the ball was still over land at that point, that it was hooking so incredibly hard that it had no chance to catch the bunker next to the hazard.

Tiger knew instantly that the ball was in the water, but decided not to look at the rest of the shot because he figured Wittenberg would be sure to watch closely enough to figure out the exact point where the ball crossed the hazard.

Rolfing had to see Tiger hit a massive hook that would have been over land for at least 90% of its flight, but instead of waiting to make sure the ball was dead, he instantly declared it “wet” but never even uttered the word “hook.”

Rolfing’s first impression of where the ball did (or didn’t) cross the hazard somehow how got significantly better ten minutes after he said that he didn’t get a great look at the shot and that he didn’t think it crossed much of the water.

The overhead video from the blimp, which appears to be comically conclusive, has to be completely deceiving, despite the fact that the ball never leaves the center of the camera shot (which indicates that it was not hooking particularly hard).

The fact that, according to the PGA Tour Shot Tracker, seven players went into the same water hazard during the tournament (none farther to the left than Tiger) and the six not named Tiger Woods all dropped on the short side of the water or rehit their tee shots, has to be a total coincidence.

 

I have been all sorts of names in the last day since releasing that You Tube video. A Conspiracy Theorist (I am actually an ardent anti conspiracy theorist). A Tiger Hater (I used to run the most well known Tiger Woods fan website in the world). And a Racist (the last line of attack whenever a person of color is involved). 

I am none of these things. I’m just an avid golfer who cares about the rules of the game and who thinks the evidence here demands far more questions and answers from the golf media than we have gotten to date, or given their incestuous history with Tiger, likely to get in the future.

 

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