PONTE VEDRA BEACH — Two marshals say Tiger Woods never said anything to them about whether Sergio Garcia had played his shot. Two other marshals disputed that account, one of them saying he told Woods that Garcia had already hit on the second hole at the TPC Sawgrass.
In the days since Woods won the Players Championship, the dispute has shifted from players to volunteer marshals.
It started Saturday in the third round when Woods was deep in the trees, some 50 yards to the left of Garcia in the fairway. Woods pulled a 5-wood from his bag to play a high-risk shot through a gap in the trees, and the crowd cheered his decision, which was right about the time Garcia was playing his shot.
Woods said marshals told him Garcia had already hit.
Asked about the poor shot he hit that led to bogey, Garcia said that Woods should have known the Spaniard was about to hit, and he suggested that Woods might have instigated the disruptive cheer. Woods said later Saturday that Garcia didn't have all the facts.
"The marshals, they told me he already hit, so I pulled a club and was getting ready to play my shot," Woods said.
None of that had any bearing on the outcome, and there were no rules violation.
But it became more testy when Sports Illustrated quoted two marshals as saying they told Woods no such thing. One of them was John North, the head marshal for that section of the golf course. He told the magazine, "Nothing was said to us, and we certainly said nothing to him. 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."
The Florida Times-Union, however, quoted two marshals as saying there was communication between Woods and volunteers.
"It is not true and definitely unfair to Tiger," said Brian Nedrich, a marshal at the second hole. "That's because I was the one Tiger heard say that Sergio hit."
Nedrich said he was about 10 yards from Woods, and while he could barely see Garcia, he said he got a glimpse of him swinging and saw the ball in the air. He said when the crowd began to stir around Woods, another marshal, Lance Paczkowski, tried to quiet them by saying, "The other player hasn't hit yet."
"That's when I yelled back at Lance, 'No … he's already hit," Nedrich told the newspaper. "Tiger had already taken his club, but we did tell him that Sergio had hit."
It became a particularly sensitive issue to the Woods camp because several websites had the word "lied" in its headlines.
Sports Illustrated posted an update Wednesday on its website that it had a follow-up with North, who said with an earpiece in one ear, it was possible that other officials had an exchange with Woods that he didn't hear. North said his statement about "lacking character" was based on his understanding that no marshal had said anything to Woods.
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said in a statement that the comments from the marshals in the Florida Times-Union story "definitively show that Tiger was telling the truth about being told Sergio had hit. I hope this demonstrates to some reporters the importance of accuracy and not jumping to misplaced conclusions."
Pepper's back: Dottie Pepper is returning to broadcasting, signing a deal with ESPN that she calls a perfect fit of TV work and promoting junior golf.
Pepper retired from NBC in December after eight years because she was weary of the travel and wanted to devote her time to getting more juniors involved in golf. She joined the PGA of America as one of its board members.
"It's the dream fit," Pepper, 47, said. "I love what I do, and now I can do enough of it and still have a life. It's just the major championships, and next year I'll work eight events. It's fabulous."
Pepper said there was mutual interest when ESPN called, but it came with a caveat: She wanted to make sure that joining ESPN would not affect Judy Rankin, the longtime ABC Sports and ESPN golf analyst whom Pepper considers a close friend and mentor. It was Rankin who in 1999 suggested that Pepper be hired to work the U.S. Women's Amateur.