Tiger Woods was presumably at least a couple hundred miles from TPC Sawgrass when Players Championship contender Justin Rose was assessed and then awarded two shots for a penalty that a few hours later the PGA Tour decided was not a penalty after all.
But Woods, despite his injury-related absence, was, as always, part of the conversation after officials on Sunday morning unexpectedly rescinded the punishment Rose incurred when it appeared his ball moved after he addressed it late in Saturday’s third round. The ruling and its aftermath blew up on Twitter, with observers recalling a similar incident at last year’s BMW Championship involving the (still) world No. 1.
Back in September, Woods vehemently disagreed with officials’ determination that his ball changed position after he removed a loose impediment during the second round just outside Chicago. Tiger insisted his ball "oscillated" and did not move, but to no avail, after slow-motion and high-definition technology indicated the ball had in fact shifted.
The edict that saved Rose two shots -- Decision 18-4, or the "Tiger Woods rule," which went into effect Jan. 1 -- could have worked in Woods’ favor as well had it been in force during last year’s FedExCup playoff series. Skip ahead eight months and, as Brendan Porath detailed on Sunday, the Tour, in conjunction with golf’s governing bodies, determined that "without the use of sophisticated technology, it was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye that [Rose's] ball had left its original position and had come to rest in its original place," according to a statement from the Tour.
Bottom line: Woods’ penalty still stands, but Rose, who appeared perplexed about what exactly occurred near the 18th green on Saturday, signed a scorecard two strokes gaudier than when he began Sunday’s final round.
"Under 50 times magnification in the truck, maybe the ball moved a quarter of a dimple toward the toe of the club, which, obviously, if the ball moved, it moved and I get assessed an extra stroke penalty. Whereas, if, in the moment, I would have called the rules official, I would have only been assessed one stroke by moving it back," Rose told reporters after carding what he believed was a 1-over 73 on Saturday but that turned into a 71.
"So, disappointing, but in the same way, I'm glad now that at least the right decision's been made," Rose added. "The ball moved, obviously I made a mistake, it's not a one‑stroke penalty, it's two, but, yeah, I got to just move on tomorrow now."
Justin Rose is the first person in history to be 2 under on the day before he teed off.— brandel chamblee (@chambleebrandel) May 11, 2014
All that had some social media types virtually scratching their heads.
Others noted that the ruling seemed to give Rose, who blasted out of the gate on Sunday with two birdies in his first four holes and was making a run at 54-hole leaders Martin Kaymer and Justin Spieth, additional impetus.
Another birdie for Rose who improves to -10 overall thru 9.. gotta think he's playing with a little more fire than usual.— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) May 11, 2014
Still others wondered what fresh hell awaited the boys in Ponte Vedra should Rose end up with the victory.
This Rose thing has potential to blow up if he shoots an earlier than should have been 64 and wins this event...just saying— John Huggan (@johnhuggan) May 11, 2014
For what it's worth, I don't think Rose did anything wrong here, but this has some potential for a real messy outcome.— Adam Sarson (@Adam_Sarson) May 11, 2014
When the naked eye rule was announced, I wrote that it would likely cause more problems than anything. Sure enough, here we are.— Adam Sarson (@Adam_Sarson) May 11, 2014
Woods, meanwhile, was likely waiting back home in Jupiter, Fla., for a thank-you note from the reigning U.S. Open champion, who finished birdie-birdie. His final-round 3-under 69 got Rose to 10-under for the week -- just three shots back of Kaymer, who hung on for a one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk.