The choice of Tiger Woods

By Joe PosnanskiApril 14, 2013, 6:56 pm

(Editor's note: Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for NBCSports.com. When his topic is golf related, you can read him here on GolfChannel.com.) This column originally appeared on his blog, Joe Blogs.)

Sports lets us fill that all-too-human urge to tell people what they should do. We can tell the manager that he should have pulled the starter, the college star that he should not turn pro, the quarterback that he should have thrown the ball away. It is part of the fun of being a fan.

In that vein, many people have spent the last day or so telling Tiger Woods that he should (or should not) have disqualified himself from the Masters. Woods, on the 15th hole on Friday, hit a brilliant approach shot that turned out to be too brilliant – the ball hit the flagstick and spun back into the water. It was one of those dreadful injustices that make golf an often disheartening game, and Woods weighed his options. The option he settled on was to take a penalty stroke and “play a ball as nearly as possible at the spot where the original ball was last played.”

Only, he did not exactly do that. He played the ball maybe three or four feet behind the ball, perhaps confusing this rule with another one. What followed was slightly confusing, but here’s the official version: Golf being golf, some rule stickler watching on TV called in to say it was an illegal drop. Golf officials then reviewed the drop and determined that while the drop may not have met the technical word-for-word standard it was within the spirit of the rule. In other words, they ruled it was close enough.

But after the round, Woods talked about the drop – and he made it clear that he unknowingly and purposely broke the spirit of the rule too. He said he dropped the ball a couple of yards behind the original drop because it gave him a better chance to hit a good shot (he hit it stiff and made his bogey).


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Now, if we are to believe the timeline, those golf officials were in a bind. They had looked at the drop and ruled it legal. But after Woods' comments, they knew it was an illegal drop – Woods had not played the ball as nearly as possible to the original ball.

They also knew that if it was an illegal drop, that meant Woods had signed an illegal scorecard – he had signed for a score lower than he actually shot – and an illegal scorecard means automatic disqualification. There was a lot of consternation over what would be done, with many people thinking Woods had to be disqualified and many others thinking that disqualifying Woods over such a minor point would be ludicrous.

Golf officials split the baby, they used the wide leeway of rule 33 (sort of a “in the best interest of golf” rule) and gave Woods a two-stroke penalty but did not disqualify him.

This is one of those nanoscale legal decisions that some golf fans will discuss like Talmudic scholars and others will find utterly ridiculous and pointless. I lean more to the latter, I guess. I still think it’s absolutely ridiculous that Roberto De Vicenzo was not given a chance to play in a 1968 Masters playoff because he unwittingly signed a scorecard that credited him shooting one shot worse than he actually shot (his playing partner, Tommy Aaron, had made the mistake and De Vicenzo won fans all over the world by not blaming Aaron and instead saying “What a stupid I am!”).

What I find interesting here is not the rule or the ruling, but the opportunity the committee gave to Tiger Woods. At first glance, it seems like they just gave him the opportunity to continue in the Masters without any guilt at all. He could always say, “Hey, they penalized me … I’m just following the rules.”

But I would argue they gave him a hidden opportunity. They gave Tiger Woods the opportunity to disqualify himself, if he wanted to do that.

At first blush, the first option – staying in the Masters  – seems the easy choice. Even with the two-stroke penalty, Woods is in contention. Woods trails Jack Nicklaus by four major championships in his chase of greatest player ever, and he has to know that time runs short. Every major championship counts.

But with this, Woods also knows that if he somehow does win, many will view the victory as tainted. Maybe he doesn’t care about that, maybe he shouldn’t, but it’s there.

But let’s look at the withdrawal option. There are advantages to withdrawing too. Woods is clearly trying to put on a better public face. It’s obvious. He is much more pleasant in interviews, much less hostile on the golf course. He lapses now and again – old habits die hard – but he’s clearly trying to clean it up and represent himself and the game better. If he had withdrawn from the Masters, and simply said: “I unwittingly broke one of the rules of golf. I did not mean to do it, but I did and the game is bigger than any one golfer” – it would have forced his critics and cynics to look at him in a different way.

He chose to stay and play, and it fits his profile. Tiger Woods is about winning. Winning has forged him, driven his ambition, pushed him to towering heights and a few nasty lows.

I do wonder if he ever gave consideration to withdrawing. I’m not saying he should have withdrawn. This is what I mean about that human urge to tell people what to do. The point to me isn’t what anyone else thinks he should have done. The point is what he did do.

But I find myself wondering if he considered withdrawing. He’s a long shot to win the Masters today. He has never come from behind to win a major championship, and this will be a particularly difficult comeback. He’s four shots behind not one but two excellent golfers, one a former Masters champion (Angel Cabrera) and the other one of the 10 best players in the world (Brandt Snedeker). There are other terrific golfers like Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott between him and the prize. It will be a tough comeback, to say the least.

And if he doesn’t win, well, I wonder if he would ever look back and have a tiny regret. It has been almost 90 years since Bobby Jones called a penalty on himself that may have cost him the 1925 U.S. Open – and golf fans still remember it. More than 40 years have gone by since Jack Nicklaus conceded the putt to Tony Jacklin to allow Great Britain to halve the 1969 Ryder Cup. People remember that too. Woods was given a great gift Saturday – the gift to either stay and play or to be remembered for something larger than golf. He chose to stay and try to win the Masters.


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More sun, dry conditions expected early at Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 9:14 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – An atypically dry Scottish summer is expected to continue this week at The Open.

There’s a possibility of a few showers Thursday and Friday, but otherwise conditions are expected to remain dry with temperatures around 70 degrees and winds in the 15-20 mph range.

The forecast for the opening round at Carnoustie is sunshine with clouds developing later in the day. The high is expected to be around 70 degrees, with winds increasing throughout the day, maxing out at 18 mph.


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There’s a chance of rain overnight Thursday and into Friday morning, but it’s not expected to slow down the fiery conditions.

It’s been one of the driest summers in recent memory, leading to fairways that are baked out and fescue rough that is lighter and thinner than in previous years.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 8:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 8:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.