SERGIO VS. TIGER: Should we call the dispute between golfers Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods “Marshal-gate”? If you’re not familiar with the incident, it occurred on the par five second hole during Saturday’s third round of the Players Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Garcia hit a good drive into the fairway, while Tiger pulled his ball into the trees to the left of the fairway. As Sergio was getting ready to hit his second shot, Tiger pulled a 5 wood out of his bag, prompting some of the fans to cheer because it meant he was going to go for the green. Sergio proceeded to hit his shot to the right, ultimately making bogey and relinquishing a lead over Tiger that he would never regain.
After the round, Sergio alluded to the incident and accused Tiger of poor etiquette. Tiger, of course, had a different opinion. The replay of the two players in real time indicated that Tiger did in fact pull his club from his bag prior to Sergio taking his shot. However, it appeared from the video that Sergio had an opportunity to back off the shot, but didn’t do so. By Sunday afternoon, after Garcia went quadruple bogey – double bogey to end his fourth round, enabling Tiger to win by two shots over a trio of players, the incident was all but forgotten….until Monday morning.
Tiger had commented that a marshal had told him that Sergio had hit, so it was okay for him to proceed. Two marshals on the hole told Sports Illustrated that they never say anything to Tiger and that he was lying. But wait… on Tuesday the marshals that were following the Garcia – Woods pairing told the press that at one point that they did tell Tiger that it was okay to hit, explaining that Tiger’s recollection was factually correct, but he may have gotten the timing confused in the heat of the moment.
I have to admit, it’s tough being Tiger. He smokes the strongest field in golf by two shots and has to respond to arguably the biggest whining underachiever in the golf world. I am not going to try to defend Tiger here. As far as I’m concerned, he’s definitely guilty of a breach of golf etiquette. But even though I’ve played hundreds of rounds of golf, many of those in club tournament situations, I’ve never been in the kind of environment he and Sergio found themselves on Saturday afternoon. Besides, it’s not like Sergio is a newcomer to that circus. He’s played with Tiger over twenty times on the weekend and every time, Tiger has scored better than him. So maybe he’s just a bit sensitive about the whole thing.
Did Tiger lie? I don’t think so. Did he get the timing confused? Probably. Was he guilty of a rules violation? Absolutely not. At the end of the day, would it have changed the outcome of the tournament? Very doubtful. The fact is that Tiger Woods is the most focused and mentally toughest player in history. It’s one of the reasons he didn’t really pay attention to what Sergio was doing. After all, he was at least fifty yards away. Lastly, we already know Tiger has exhibited some character issues outside the ropes, but haven’t we all?
For most of his 37 years, inside the ropes has been a different thing, this year’s Master’s incident notwithstanding. But when you think about it, there has never been a golfer who has had virtually every shot shown on television. How would you like a television camera showing your every move while you’re at work? Enough said.
HEAT ADVANCE: In the craziness of NBA and NHL playoff series taking place simultaneously, sometimes we lose the sight of something truly great taking place. Tonight, the Miami Heat won their 45th game in their last 48 games to defeat a tough Chicago Bulls team four games to one in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The Bulls were depleted by illness and injury, but they had taken out a strong Brooklyn Nets squad and had taken a 1 – 0 lead over the Heat by defeating the defending champs on Miami’s home court. The Heat took command of the series by winning the next three, but entering the fourth quarter tonight, the Heat found themselves down by eight and looking nothing like the team expected to win their second consecutive championship. Enter Dewayne Wade, hobbled by an injured knee, a game time decision to start. He carried the Heat to victory, helped by some clutch shooting by Lebron James and Shane Battier. Many will try to discount the win, saying the Bulls were playing shorthanded. Well, this is the NBA in May. In many ways, it’s an endurance contest to begin with. All I know is 45 – 3 down the stretch is pretty good, no matter who you’re playing.