Tiger Escapes Controversial Possible Penalty Unscathed

Tiger Woods had a very good second round going at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas when a wayward drive at the 18th hole threatened to not only put a serious damper on his round, but also embroil him in one last rules controversy before the calendar turns to 2019.

At 5-under par on his round and 4-under par for the tournament, Woods missed his drive right of the fairway on Albany Golf Course’s closing hole.

The ball came precariously to rest underneath a palmetto bush, leaving Tiger with two options, more or less: either he could attempt to play the shot using a severely limited backswing or he could take an unplayable lie and get relief from the bush.

The Golf Channel did a good job of splicing together what would end up being a nearly 40-minute deliberation into a three-minute video above. Woods would card a double bogey on the hole, but the question became whether he should sign for a triple bogey as the result of a double hit. 

The ruling that came down from PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell was that first and foremost, Woods was deemed to have made a stroke at the ball. Russell added that while it would be reasonable to assume that given the time the ball spent on or close to the face of the club that Tiger likely hit the ball more than once, but that would not be discernable to the naked eye without the aid of high-definition slow-motion cameras.

“When you slowed it down to ultraslow-motion, high-definition television, you could see where the (ball) did stay on the clubface quite a bit of time and it looked like he might have hit it twice, but there’s no way he could tell that,” Russell said. “In this age of high-definition slow-motion television, we’ve got a decision — 34-3/10, limitations on use of video evidence. Basically, it says if the player did not know that he did that and the only way you can tell that is by using this type of slow-motion technology, he’s exempt from the rules, so there’s no penalty there.”

For Woods, it was a bizarre end to an otherwise good day of golf — at least for 17 holes.

“I didn’t feel like I made contact twice,” Woods said. “It was such a short little shot, I was just trying to hit it sideways there. Under slow motion and high-def, you can see that the ball hit the clubface twice, but there is no penalty.”

Ironically, the whole kerfuffle occurred less than 32 days before the end of the calendar year. Beginning in 2019, the Rules of Golf are going under a much-publicized facelift with the rule that governs double hits — Rule 10-1 — being adjusted to read that, “in making a stroke, if your club accidentally hits the ball more than once, there has been only one stroke and there is no penalty.