The Golf Blog: Yahoo! Sports sinks to new low by insinuating Tiger Woods “cheated” with improper ball drop on 14th hole of Players Championship

mulligan, 13 May 2013, Comments Off on The Golf Blog: Yahoo! Sports sinks to new low by insinuating Tiger Woods “cheated” with improper ball drop on 14th hole of Players Championship
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Tiger Drop

The Golf Blog says: Yahoo! Sports has sunk to a new low by insinuating that Tiger Woods cheated during the final round of his victory at the Players Championship. On its home page, Yahoo! has a headline “Tiger Woods’s controversial move,” with the byline: “Questions bubble up about whether the golfer cheated en route to a win at the Players Championship.”

While it’s true Johnny Miller and other commentators questioned whether Tiger Woods’ drop on the 14th hole was “borderline” (because it may have been too far ahead instead of where the ball crossed the lateral hazard), neither Miller nor any of the TV announcers suggested that Tiger was cheating, which implies a knowing or intentional act of dishonesty. Yahoo! Sports’ headline, however, suggests just that by insinuating “questions … about whether the golfer [Tiger Woods] cheated en route to a win at the Players Championship.”

The C-word is a pretty strong word. And before Yahoo! Sports sticks it in a headline about Tiger Woods, it sure better have evidence and the facts to back it up. But the facts indicate otherwise: Casey Wittenberg, Tiger’s playing partner, and Wittenberg’s caddy were the ones who helped Tiger determine where the ball crossed the water. In fact, it appeared that Tiger Woods looked away after being disgusted by mis-hitting his drive so badly. So Tiger may have had to rely on his playing partner to help determine the spot where the ball crossed the water, to the best of their abilities. Wittenberg was adamant that he identified the right spot when questioned after the round.

As the PGA Tour explained afterwards, in that scenario, the player is not held responsible if it turns out that his best judgment on where the ball crossed the water turned out to be wrong. The rule makes perfect sense because the golfer cannot be expected to be 100% perfect in assessing where a ball–perhaps 200 yards away–has crossed the water. The players don’t have access to instant replay. They have one chance of trying to spot the ball, which may be sailing a couple hundred yards away. In that instant, it would not be surprising if the players’ view is not 100% perfect with scientific precision. We haven’t seen enough camera angles of Tiger’s drive to be sure if his drop was exactly where the ball crossed the water or not (here’s one view and there’s also an aerial view from the blimp). Nor did the PGA Tour have any better view to second guess Tiger’s drop. Here’s the PGA Tour’s ruling:

“Without definitive evidence, the point where Woods’ ball last crossed the lateral water hazard is determined through best judgment by Woods and his fellow competitor,” the statement read. “If that point later proves to be a wrong point (through television or other means), the player is not penalized by Rule 26-1 given the fact that a competitor would risk incurring a penalty every time he makes an honest judgment as to the point where his ball last crosses a water-hazard margin and that judgment subsequently proves incorrect (Decision 26-1/17).”

Yahoo! Sports owes Tiger Woods an apology and an immediate retraction of this headline.

UPDATE: At some point during the night, Yahoo! Sports must have removed the headline and the entire story from its home page and inserted a new headline into the blog post, which remains accessible. It now reads: “Spot check: Another Tiger drop stirs controversy. Broadcasters seemed to change their story and video suggests Woods was off the mark on Sunday’s drop.” Notice the C-word has been removed. The blog post remains the same and has this catty reference: “On the course, Woods has never had a reputation as a cheater.”

The retraction of the headline is a start. Now we need an apology.

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