Tiger gets free drop after fan picks up ball


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It wasn’t Tiger Woods’ first miss this week at Quail Hollow, but it was the first miss that couldn’t be recovered.

Woods hit his approach shot left at the par-5 fifth into a sea of fans, but when the crowd parted, no golf ball could be found.

“Nobody saw it but there were a lot of people around,” PGA Tour vice president for rules and competition Mark Russell said. “People said they saw the ball bounce and go in that area and when people got around it, then it was gone.”

Russell made the ruling based on the account of one “older gentleman,” specifically, who said he saw the ball land and bounce. Russell later asked the entire gallery if anyone else had information about what happened.

“I asked the crowd several times. I had one gentleman who was adamant about what he saw and then I had a couple other people tell me, ‘yes, I saw the ball bounce.’”

Nobody could confirm that the ball was ever actually picked up by anyone, but Russell was confident in his decision based on the eyewitness accounts.

“If it would have been bushes or deep pine straw, it would have been a totally different situation. But it was basically bare ground,” Russell said.

Had it been deemed a lost ball, Woods would have had to take a one-stroke penalty and go back to the tee.

But based on all the pieces of the puzzle, Russell was confident in his ruling.

“Think about me telling him he’s got to go back based on that evidence. Then it would be the other way around, you guys would be telling me ‘You lost your mind? The ball couldn’t have been lost over there.’”

One gentleman stepped forward with a conflicting account after the ruling, saying that he never saw the ball drop from the trees. At that point, the ruling had been made and there was no going back.

After all the drama, Tiger managed only a par and another missed birdie opportunity. His 1-over 73 Friday put him at even par for two rounds. The projected cut halfway through the day Friday is 1 under.