Had the rivals who engaged in a war of words following their third-round pairing been together again for the final 18, Tiger would have had to seek guidance from Sergio instead of Casey Wittenberg on where to take a penalty drop after hooking his tee shot into the water on the 14th hole.
I know it's a stretch to project what might have happened (although Tiger said he thought they would be paired again in a final-round threesome). And there's no way to tell whether playing in the same group with Tiger would have helped or hurt Sergio's performance. I'm assuming a great deal here. I'm assuming that both competitors would have hit the exact same shots up to the point where Tiger hit his "pop-up big high hook."
But the possibilities are too juicy not to consider.
If Sergio had taken a hard line - and the correct one - and insisted that Tiger's tee shot started out over the water and never crossed land, Woods would have had to take a drop on or close to the tee on the 467-yard par-4. Then the double-bogey he ultimately netted would not have been so easy.
And what happens if Tiger doesn't agree with Sergio's ruling and gets in the Spaniard's face about it? Then the language could have really become colorful. When told Saturday night that Garcia had accused him of inciting the crowd while Sergio was in his backswing, Tiger responded, "it's not real surprising that he's complaining about something."
Would Woods have complained in this instance?
Would Sergio have brought up Woods' advantage-gaining penalty drop issues at the Masters?
Would NBC have miked the rules official who would no doubt have been summoned to settle the disagreement?
We'll never know. Instead, Wittenberg agreed that Tiger should drop well up from where his ball appeared to have last crossed land, he slashed out of the rough from 242 yards away and just missed getting up and down for bogey.
Of course, Sergio's own water hazard adventures over the final two holes at the Stadium Course made Tiger's questionable penalty drop a moot point.
Mark McLaughlin has reported on the PGA Tour for the New York Post, FoxSports.com, Greensboro News & Record, and Burlington (N.C.) Times-News. He is a past member of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter @markmacduke.
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