ATLANTA — Five wins. No majors.
Yet the number that might resonate most for Tiger Woods in 2013 is three, as in rules violations.
Two were his responsibility for not knowing the rules.
It was the third violation that was the most troubling. And oddly enough, Woods knew the rule.
He just didn’t think he violated it.
In the trees behind the first green Friday at the BMW Championship, he was removing a small branch in front of his golf ball when the ball moved ever so slightly. Woods immediately stopped what he was doing. He was certain the ball only oscillated. He went on to make double bogey.
Then his luck got worse. A PGA Tour Entertainment videographer just happened to capture the moment without knowing what he had. It was shipped to the office in Florida, along with the rest of his footage, where an editor detected the ball moving and notified the tour. A call to alert rules officials at Conway Farms followed.
And this is where it gets messy.
Video evidence clearly shows the ball moved – not more than a half-dimple at most, but it moved – which violates Rule 18-2 a. Slugger White, vice president of rules and competition for the PGA Tour, had to look only once to see that it moved. Woods said he watched it “again and again and again” and he saw it only wobble.
The evidence was obvious enough that White assessed him two shots.
“It was pretty clear to me,” White said.
Woods stood his ground a day later, saying it only oscillated. From his vantage point, crouched over the top of the ball, that’s probably what it looked like. From the camera angle provided to the tour, it moved.
Grousing didn’t make Woods’ case any stronger. Was it worth it?
Whether he likes it or not, Woods is held to a different standard, just as Greg Norman, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were before him in the television era. He gets more attention. He draws the largest crowds. He’s on TV more. His every move is scrutinized.
Imagine how the other 69 players at the BMW Championship would have felt had they saw the video and learned that Woods was not penalized.
Did Woods gain an advantage by his ball moving so slightly that he didn’t notice? Of course not.
But the Rules of Golf are not based on an advantage. In this case, it’s abiding by one of fundamental principles of the game – play the ball as it lies.