It turns out Woods did hear a marshal say that El Nino had already hit his second shot at the par-5 second hole early on Day 3 at The Players Championship.
It also seems virtually certain that Woods could not see Garcia in the fairway when he pulled a club from his bag and approached his golf ball that was in the trees left of the second fairway.
“From where (Woods) was there is no way he could have seen Sergio,” marshal John North told GolfChannel.com on Tuesday.
We’ve seen the split-screen footage of this episode more times than the Zapruder film – Woods eying his lie and the trees ahead, Garcia poised over his ball, Woods slipping a head cover off a fairway wood which caused the crowd to react.
The timing is all right there in HD quality. What has been open to viral, and sometimes vicious, debate for five days is what happened next.
When Round 3 was suspended by Saturday’s storm, Garcia told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands: “I think he must have pulled a 5-wood or 3-wood out and obviously everybody started screaming, so that didn’t help very much. It was unfortunate. I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there. I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn’t bother the other players.”
Woods responded when play ultimately ended in twilight on Saturday: “He doesn’t know all the facts. The marshal said he’d already hit and I pulled the club . . . I heard his comments afterwards. It’s not surprising he’s complaining about something.”
But it was North – the chief marshal for the first, second and third holes at TPC Sawgrass last week – who turned the episode into a bona fide controversy, however unwittingly.
“Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to (Woods),” North told Sports Illustrated. “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.”
On Tuesday night, however, North was not as certain that no marshal had advised Woods that Garcia had already played. Although he said he wasn’t misquoted by Sports Illustrated he did say his quotes were taken “slightly” out of context.
“I didn’t want to impugn the character of Tiger Woods or the Sports Illustrated writer. I was just answering a hypothetical question,” said North, who has been a marshal at The Players for 30 years. “I cannot unequivocally say nothing was said (to Woods).”
Less than 12 hours later, Brian Nedrich could equivocally say that Woods received the “all clear” from a marshal. “I was the one Tiger heard say that Sergio had hit,” Nedrich told the Florida Times-Union.
While the timing remains somewhat unclear, Nedrich – who said he was 10 to 12 feet away from Woods – informed a fellow marshal that Garcia had played his second shot.
“There was a lot going on, as usual, when Tiger plays,” he said. “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.”
At the risk of playing both judge and jury, the witness may step down, the case is dismissed.
If this doesn’t clear up at least this portion of the controversy for the conspiracy theorist then nothing will. Although the timing is suspect, Woods heard the marshal say Garcia had already played.
We’ve learned from this ugly episode that, in this case, it seems it is the marshals who needed a “Quiet, please” sign; and that the smallest amount of contrition could have gone a long way.
Woods supporters say he did nothing wrong, therefore he had nothing to apologize for. While that may follow the letter of the law it does little to promote good will within the ropes and stretches the boundaries of courtesy.
In this case, Woods accidently and inadvertently pulled a club while Garcia was preparing to hit and caused a distraction. Regardless of intent or culpability, a quick apology as the two headed up the second fairway may well have cut short a needless controversy.
That, however, was never option. Not with this two-ball.
“We didn’t do a lot of talking,” Woods said on Saturday when asked if he and Garcia discussed the incident.
Woods and Garcia don’t like each other. In related news, the sun will set in the west. Still, would this issue not have faded like Saturday’s sunset had both players shown a modicum of civility?
But then it’s hard to blame Woods for going lock-jaw considering Garcia’s take on the row on Sunday, some 24 hours after the fact.
“I'm not going to lie, he's not my favorite guy to play with,” Garcia told Sky Sports. “He's not the nicest guy on Tour.”
Passion is one thing, petulance is an entirely different animal.
Competing personalities butt heads in all walks of life, but on Sunday, on Mother’s Day, the Spaniard violated a central theme of civilized society – he had nothing nice to say, and yet he kept talking.