After opening with a 2-under 69 to begin his bid to become the first player in a half-century to win three consecutive British Open belts, Woods had to explain his role in a curious ruling that some claimed was caused by preferential treatment by a rules official.
Woods was 3 under when he hit a drive dead left on the 10th hole, which is when everything else started moving sideways as well. Given the sketchy explanation that officials with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club offered with regard to the ensuing free drop he received, the saucy British tabs fast made a federal case out of the questionable ruling.
Actually, since we're overseas, it was more of an international incident. Apparently, the belief abroad is that Woods not only rules the game, he rules the rulemakers.
After Woods yanked his drive into what might be the only stand of trees for miles, his ball came to rest on a line of television cables resting in the thick grass. Ninety-nine times out of 100, rules protocol calls for a player to mark the ball, move the cables, then drop the ball in the same spot with no penalty.
However, Woods said the R&A rules official on the scene, Alan Holmes, instead offered a free drop several feet away in an area that had been trampled by fans, claiming the cables were an immovable obstruction. Mark Roe, a BBC radio reporter and former European Tour player, was shadowing Woods' group and said he moved the cables with relative ease afterward. He more than insinuated that Holmes was intimidated.
"I think the R&A official became a jellyfish the moment Tiger Woods asked for a drop," Roe said on the air.
Roe added later: "I am absolutely disgusted. In 21 years, I've never seen a drop like it. The rules official has made a big mistake."
Woods shrugged and tried to explain what happened.
"It was a weird drop," he said. "I was as surprised as anybody. I've never seen that ruling before."
Do not get into the habit of pointing out the peculiarly salient blade of grass which you imagine to have been the cause of your failing to hole your putt. You may sometimes find your adversary who has successfully holed his, irritatingly short-sighted on these occasions. Moreover, the opinion of a man who has just missed his putt, about the state of the green, is usually accepted with some reserve.
HORACE HUTCHINSON (1896)