COMMENTARY | Tiger Woods is the most widely followed, scrutinized and videotaped golfer in the sport.
So it was a bit odd to only hear about Woods' possible one-stroke penalty during NBC's live coverage of the third round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, a tournament he was leading at the time and eventually went on to lose in a playoff to Zach Johnson.
On Saturday, during a commercial break, Woods' ball apparently moved from its spot on the 13th green while he was looking over a birdie putt. Instead of showing viewers what happened, NBC aired a live shot of Woods joking around with Johnson while on-course announcer Notah Begay III explained the situation.
"I think they're pretty sure the ball did move," Begay said. "Tiger was walking around reading his putt, had already set it down. It was sitting there for quite some time, and, as he stooped in behind it, the ball kind of tipped over, so I think they need to figure out whether he needs to replace it or play it from where it lies."
Studio announcer Roger Maltbie quickly chimed in: "I believe the question is if he's done nothing to cause it to move, if he's put the ball down on the green and the ball is at rest, and then he goes about reading the putt and the ball alters position without him causing it to move, then the ball will be played as it lies under no penalty.
"If the ball in fact moved and he was deemed to have cause it to move, then he would have to replace it under the penalty of a stroke," Maltbie said.
Begay said he was certain that Tiger didn't cause the ball to move, to which Maltbie responded with, "This shouldn't be an issue."
Maltbie's in-booth partner, Terry Gannon, then correctly noted that "you call in a rules official, though, any time there's a question, obviously. These days, certainly if you're Tiger."
Yet, there was no footage shown during and after the official review, and no explanation for the lack of footage.
Windy conditions dominated the tournament on Saturday, so it wasn't surprising to hear that the rules official ultimately determined that the ball moved on its own. Woods was able to finish the hole without incurring a penalty.
He ended up three-putting from about 6 feet and carded a bogey.
It's plausible that NBC didn't have any quality video clips of the ball moving. This wasn't exactly a major tournament or even an official PGA Tour event. In fact, it's about as close to an exhibition as a real golf tournament can get. With only 18 players in the field, the number of cameras and angles may be limited.
But it's also possible, perhaps more likely, that NBC did have some footage and just chose not to air it, in part because of the controversy surrounding Woods and rules infractions. After all, Woods is the host of the tournament, he was in the lead the time and, well, he's Tiger Freaking Woods, so you'd expect his every move to be recorded.
Woods and his on-course infractions surfaced as one of the major stories of the 2013 golf season after the Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee all but called Woods a cheater in a ridiculously outrageous column for Golf.com. (As a side, NBC owns the Golf Channel).
Fellow golfers Rory McIlroy and Geoff Ogilvy have even chimed in on the Woods-Chamblee fiasco, with Ogilvy offering a surprising take.
Indirectly, viewer call-ins of rules infractions have also become a topic of discussion for the folks running the PGA Tour. It was a viewer, albeit a Champions Tour golfer, who called in Woods' illegal drop during the Masters.
Woods has gone on record to support a PGA Tour review of TV viewers' ability to call in possible rules violations.
"It's a new age in which there is a lot of cameras that are around - well, around my group and then some of the top players," Woods said in September, according to USA Today. "I think the commissioner was right. We're going to have to have more discussions about it in the future. I think that's actually happening right now."
Indeed, there are a lot of cameras around Woods every time he tees it up. But maybe just not on Saturday, on the 13th green, while he was looking over a birdie putt, with the lead in hand.
Andy Vuong golfs year-round in Colorado and consistently shoots in the 80s when he doesn't hit 90 or higher. Follow him on Twitter @andyvuong.
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