Tiger Woods added a new Nike VR_S Cover 5-wood to his bag before launching an all-out assault on TPC Blue Monster this week, but perhaps golf’s once and future No. 1 should have had caddie Joe LaCava lugging around a chain saw as well.
In case you missed it, Tiger watched seven more birdie putts sink from view as he added to his week-long total of 24, but it was his tee shot on the par-4 17th that really did disappear -- way up into the trunk of a palm tree.
With the help of PGA Tour rules official Brad Fabel and field glasses, Woods identified his Nike Tour D by his signature stripe, which allowed him to take an unplayable lie, a penalty shot, and a drop near the tree. It turned out to be a lucky break for the tourney leader, who would have had to return to the tee to re-hit had the ball completely vanished.
Tiger banged his third shot from the heavy rough to the back fringe of the green and two-putted for only his second bogey of the day.
After pulling out to a four-shot lead over playing partner Graeme McDowell with his third consecutive round in the 60s (a 5-under 67 for an 18-under total heading into Sunday's finale), Woods walked the media through the process of determining it was his ball up the tree.
“Galleries, media, officials, markers, everybody was just pointing up in the tree,” Woods said. “I got to a point where I was probably about, maybe 60 yards away and I could see the ball in the tree, identified with binoculars and saw my line on the ball. I took a drop and unfortunately it wasn't the lie I needed to play the shot. I hit a hell of a shot just to keep it on the green.
“Yeah, it was a very interesting last couple weeks,” said Woods, waxing philosophical about the now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t nature of golf balls. “I had two lost balls last week and then I got one stuck in the tree this week.”
Oh, and check eBay if you’re in the market for a used dimpled orb with “Tiger” imprinted on it. Spectator Kurt Stelzer shimmied up what henceforth will, no doubt, be known as Tiger’s Tree, to retrieve the wayward ball.