AKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods won the Bridgestone Invitational with an 8-iron that stopped a foot from the cup on the 16th hole and a 5-under 65. He believes Padraig Harrington lost because of a stopwatch.
Even after his 70th career victory, Woods was upset Sunday that he and Harrington were told on the pivotal 16th hole that they would be put on the clock for being out of the position from the group ahead of them.
Harrington, while not blaming the slow-play policy, conceded that he was rushed out during a series of shots in the rough on his way to making a triple bogey, going from a one-shot lead to a three-shot deficit.
Woods was more direct in his comments to the Irishman as they shook hands on the 18th green.
“Like I was telling him out there, ‘I’m sorry that John got in the way of a great battle,’ because it was such a great battle for 16 holes,” Woods said. “And unfortunately, that happened.”
John Paramor, chief referee for the PGA European Tour, made no apologies for playing the rules.
He said the final pairing was 13 minutes over their time limit after 11 holes and could have been put on the clock, except that J.B. Holmes well ahead of them was struggling on the 16th with various rulings.
“We thought that would allow them to get back into position on the golf course, but they ended up playing the 13th and 14th poorly, and the 15th was not too quick, either.”
When they reached the 16th green, Paramor said Woods and Harrington were 17 minutes behind schedule.
“The 16th hole had opened up before they cleared the 15th green,” he said. “And therefore, we had no choice but to put them on the clock at that stage.”
When players take more than the allotted time while on the clock – 40 seconds, with an additional 20 seconds for the first player to hit each of the shots toward the green – they are given a warning. A second bad time leads to a $5,000 fine and a one-shot penalty.
The last player penalized a shot for slow play on the PGA Tour was Dillard Pruitt at the 1982 Byron Nelson Classic.
Woods said the stopwatch led to Harrington rushing his shots, none of them very good.
First came a 5-iron from the right trees that he pulled into the collar of a bunker. Then came a shot from 159 yards that went over the green, followed by the crucial play – a flop shot that came out hot and went into the water.
“He had to get in there quickly and hit it,” Woods said. “That was a shot you don’t want to get in there quickly and hit. You want to take your time and figure out exactly what you want to do. And I think by rushing like he had to, it forced him to make a couple mistakes.”
Harrington said the trick to being put on the clock is to keep it out of trouble.
He did just the opposite – a tee shot into the trees, the shot into the grassy slope of a bunker, the delicate flop shot to a green running away from him to the water.
“It’s an awkward situation,” he said. “There are rules, and the players make the rules and we’ve got to apply them. If you’re put on the clock, you always want to be nicely in position so you’re not having to think too much. I got out of position with my tee shot, my second shot and my third short. I got out of position and just got myself out of the zone.”
Harrington said the final pairing was slowed by the tough course conditions, weather conditions and massive gallery.
Even so, he said rules are rules.
“If you’re asking a player two or three groups ahead of the lead to play within a certain time frame, it’s unfair to give the leaders any leeway,” he said.
After hitting into the water, Harrington had to go some 100 yards back to the fairway to play his sixth shot. After all that, Woods said he noticed that the group ahead was just leaving the 18th tee as he and Harrington were teeing off on the 17th.
Slugger White, the PGA Tour rules official in charge at the Bridgestone Invitational, disputed that. He said the group ahead already was walking down the 18th fairway.
White also disputed Woods’ comment that Paramor “got in the way.”
“I don’t think John did get in the middle of it,” White said. “John is doing his job. We would be criticized if that group was two holes behind and finishing at 10 after 6 (p.m.). It’s just a regulation, guys. That’s what it amounts to. We’re doing our jobs.”
Woods was asked if he won at Firestone because of the 8-iron he hit into the 16th for birdie, or Harrington being rushed.
“Both,” he said. “I think I hit a good shot that put a little heat him. But also, I think the worst he would have made would have been bogey.”