John North – the chief marshal for the first, second and third holes last weekend at the Stadium Course – created an online buzz when he told Sports Illustrated, “Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to (Woods). I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks. We’re there to help the players and enhance the experience of the fans. He was saying what was good for him. It lacked character.”
At issue is whether a marshal informed Woods that Sergio Garcia, the world No. 1’s third-round playing partner who was preparing to hit his second shot from the middle of the fairway, had already played.
“He doesn’t know all the facts,” Woods said on Saturday following comments from Garcia that suggested Woods caused the crowd to stir in the middle of the Spaniard’s backswing. “The marshal said he’d already hit and I pulled the club.”
On Tuesday, North clarified his version of the story in an interview with GolfChannel.com.
“I didn’t want to impugn the character of Tiger Woods or the Sports Illustrated writer,” said North, a pilot with FedEx who has marshaled at The Players for 30 years. “I was just answering a hypothetical question.”
North did not feel as if he was misquoted in the Sports Illustrated article, although he said his comments were taken “slightly” out of context.
North also said he had not spoken with all the marshals on the second hole or those assigned to walk with Woods’ group. “I cannot unequivocally say nothing was said (to Woods),” North said.
According to the Florida Times-Union, two marshals, Brian Nedrich and Lance Paczkowski, were within 10 to 12 yards of Woods during the incident on the second hole.
“I was the one Tiger heard say that Sergio had hit,” Nedrich said.
Nedrich said he saw Garcia swing and then saw the ball in the air. When fans began to react to Woods’ club selection Paczkowski tried to quiet the crowd
“That’s when I yelled back at Lance, ‘No . . . he’s already hit,’ ” Nedrich said. “Tiger had already taken his club, but we did tell him that Sergio had hit.”
Nedrich continued: “There was a lot going on, as usual, when Tiger plays. Then, he’s trying to have the concentration he needs to win a tournament. It’s easy to get small details out of whack when things happen so fast.”
Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg with Excel Sports Management responded to Wednesday’s reports via e-mail: “The comments from the marshals in today’s story definitively show that Tiger was telling the truth about being told Sergio had hit. I hope this demonstrates to some reporters the importance of accuracy and not jumping to misplaced conclusions.”