Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia had a misunderstanding on the par-5 second hole at TPC Sawgrass on Saturday that reignited the two golfers' longtime feud. However, the marshal who was following the group said Woods's explanation for his actions on the hole was not true, according to Sports Illustrated's Michael Bamberger. [See update below.]
In the third round, on the 2nd hole, Woods hit a poor tee shot into the left trees. García hit a better tee shot, on the right side of the fairway. If the players had been communicating properly, García and Woods, or their caddies, would have established an order of play. But there was nothing like that. García, playing out of turn but not able to see Woods, was disrupted as he started his swing by a modest cheer from the woods, where a large group of spectators had surrounded Tiger, forming a human V around his ball. The cheers were a response to Woods’s pulling a five-wood out of his bag, meaning that he was going to attempt an absurdly difficult recovery shot. García, after fatting his shot, turned his round chin in Woods’s direction and glared.
“It’s very simple,” García said during an NBC interview. “You have to pay attention to what’s going on because the other guy is hitting. You do something when you’re in the crowd, and the crowd is going to respond.”
Returning serve, Woods said, “The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot, and then I hear his comments afterward and it’s not real surprising that he’s complaining about something.”
Well, when they heard that remark from Woods, the marshals were surprised. One of them, Gary Anderson, said on Sunday, “He didn’t ask us nothing, and we didn’t say nothing. We’re told not to talk to the players.”
Anderson’s boss, John North, was the chief marshal for the first three holes. He stood over Woods’s ball to protect it from the throng and was five feet away when Woods played his shot. North has worked the tournament as a volunteer marshal for 30 years, he’s a graduate of the Naval Academy, he served in Vietnam, he’s a FedEx pilot and he donates his round on the Stadium course for being a volunteer to the Wounded Warriors project.
“Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to him,” North said. “I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks. We’re there to help the players and enhance the experience of the fans. He was saying what was good for him. It lacked character.”
Hours later, his workweek done, North watched the tournament on TV in a military appreciation tent. “I hate to say it, but I was rooting for him,” North said of Woods. “It tears me apart. But when he’s winning..."
UPDATE: According to The Florida Times-Union, a different marshal at the second hole said that he told Woods that Garcia had hit after Garcia hit his shot. Brian Nedrich, a marshal at the second hole, said Woods was wrong about the time sequence -- Woods had already grabbed his club before the marshal told him Garcia had hit -- but that Woods did communicate with volunteers. “It is not true and definitely unfair to Tiger,” Nedrich said of claims that no marshal said anything to Woods about Garcia. “That’s because I was the one Tiger heard say that Sergio had hit.”
In a follow-up interview Wednesday morning, North said that, with an earpiece in one ear, it was possible that other officials had an exchange with Woods that he did not hear. He said he was beside Woods's ball as he prepared to play his shot but was as much as 20 feet away when Woods actually swung. He said his statement about "character" was based on his understanding that no marshal had said anything to Woods.