COMMENTARY | Amid the seemingly daily brewing political scandals in Washington involving the Obama administration, the oft-asked questions from the Right are: What did President Obama know, and when did he know it?
That's the same question being asked of Tiger Woods since the second hole on Saturday in the third round of The Players Championship. Unlike the answers about Benghazi and the IRS, the truth of the Woods riddle isn't all that important.
Woods and playing partner Sergio Garcia had hit their tee shots to the par-5 second at TPC Sawgrass. Garcia found the right fairway, while Woods pulled his ball into the pine straw and trees on the left.
Garcia was to play first, further from the hole than Woods. The Spaniard went through his routine, then struck the shot. It flared right, way right. Garcia glanced left immediately at Woods and the crowd gathered around him. They were cheering -- not because Garcia's next shot would be from a precarious position, but because Woods had pulled his fairway wood again to attempt a hero shot by going for the green with a massive hook.
After play ended on Saturday due to darkness, Garcia accused Woods of making his decision at precisely the moment he was ready to hit his second shot.
"I wouldn't say (Tiger) didn't see that I was ready, but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit," Garcia said. "Right as I was on top of the backswing, he pulled a 5-wood or 3-wood out of the rough and, obviously, everybody started screaming, so that didn't help very much."
Woods laughed off the accusation, claiming the volunteer tournament marshals on the hole told him Garcia had already hit.
"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," Woods said.
Garcia did not relent with his accusations, but eventually relented his charge at Woods and for a second Players title. Hitting two balls in the water at the island-green, par-3 17th ruined Garcia's chances. A wet tee ball at the last further embarrassed him. Woods won the tournament, the last laugh and the $1.71 million first-place check.
The world No. 1 may have lost the war of words, however.
Sports Illustrated's Michael Bamberger spoke with two marshals at that hole on Day 3 in an effort to corroborate Woods' version of the events. Neither marshal did.
One marshal, Gary Anderson, said, "He didn't ask us nothing, and we didn't say nothing. We're told not to talk to the players."
John North, chief marshal for the first three holes at the Stadium Course that week, was on the scene to protect Woods' ball from spectators.
"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."
OK, so Tiger was caught red-handed in a lie and an act of gamesmanship. Is that what cost Garcia the championship? No, it was coming up a half-club short at the penultimate hole of the tournament...twice.
Woods may have been less than truthful about the timing of pulling a fairway wood. So what? At most big golf tournaments, players are subject to the cheers of galleries at adjacent holes as their competition does what they do best. The roars at the Masters are louder and actually helps players -- they're instructive of what's unfolding elsewhere at Augusta National.
Besides, turnabout is fair play. Garcia could have done something similar to Woods for the next 16 holes over Saturday and Sunday morning. Instead, El Nino lived up to his nickname, bottling up his angst toward Woods until the end of play, then blurting it out to the media to stir up controversy.
It's not that Garcia didn't have a legit gripe with how Woods acted, but that he had better recourse than to whine about it. When Woods tried to game Y.E. Yang at Hazeltine in the '09 PGA Championship, the South Korean didn't complain. He just beat Woods for what mattered most to him.
To put this all into perspective, however, it might be best to reflect on a day almost six months to the day after Yang dead-lifted his golf bag in celebration of a major upset.
On Feb. 20, 2010, Woods spoke from the clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass to deliver a tightly controlled apology to his now-ex-wife Elin Nordegren, children, friends and fans for prolific infidelity. That day, Woods said simply, "I had affairs. I cheated."
He also implored his fans a chance to regain their support some day, saying, "I ask you to find room in your heart to one day believe in me again."
With four wins this season, it's easy to believe in Woods' talent again. This incident may make it tougher to believe in the details Woods fills in as to how he wins, but that's neither here nor there to most fans.
Besides, if there's anything for Sergio -- or the field -- to complain about, it's Woods' drop at the 14th hole in the final round.
Ryan Ballengee is a Washington, D.C.-based golf writer. His work has appeared on multiple digital outlets, including NBC Sports and Golf Channel. Follow him on Twitter @RyanBallengee.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- Sergio Garcia