Imagine being a bug on the telephone when former Open Champion David Duval rang his friend Tiger Woods on Friday night and informed him his first quadruple bogey in 1,229 career holes at the Players Championship need never have happened.
And that Woods had tossed no fewer than three shots away on the fabled island green 17th hole because he wasn’t fully aware of the new rule regarding where he was allowed to drop the ball on that iconic par three.
No wonder the impact of being informed he should have been a manageable six shots behind the halfway leaders — Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood — rather than a distant nine strokes appeared to deflate Woods in Saturday’s third round.
Tiger Woods’ first quadruple bogey in his 1,229 career holes need never have happened
He looked lacklustre from the off and any hope he still entertained of making up the deficit all but disappeared with two bogeys in the first three holes.
If truth be told, it disappeared with that phone call on Friday night.
But he did allow himself a broad smile when he got to the 17th –— and knocked it stiff. From a knockout seven one day to an easy two. What a game.
Woods had caused shockwaves to ripple across the Florida venue when he ruined a good second round by putting two balls in the water on the 17th.
To give you an idea how straightforward the hole was on a day with little wind, no other player who went out in the morning put even one ball in the drink.
He tossed three shots away because he was unaware of where he could drop the ball
Kudos to Duval and his fellow analysts at the Golf Channel for observing that Woods should have only put one ball in, as well. Because of where the flag was — towards the back of the green — and where his ball actually fell into the water, under the new rules Woods was perfectly entitled to drop the ball on the walkway to the green.
‘It was probably the only pin on that green where you could keep the point where the ball went into the hazard between himself and the hole and not be standing in the water,’ explained PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell.
Woods should have had an easy chip, therefore, or even a putt to the flag, rather than the shot from the drop area that he took on and also put in the water.
At most, he would have got down in two more shots for a bogey.
He might even have holed it from 30ft for an unlikely par. Either way, it would have been a dramatically different outcome to the seven he did write down. Instead of falling from tied 8th to tied 57th, he would still have been right in the hunt.
Duval said: ‘I reached out to Tiger on Friday afternoon and he told me he didn’t realise that it had been an option.’
Just to make Woods’ day, plummeting down the leaderboard meant a third round alongside Kevin Na, who might be the slowest player in golf.
He was certainly the slowest on Saturday, as he dropped eight shots to par in his first 10 holes.
Woods did his best to entertain another mammoth gallery but, under cool, cloudy conditions —and not for the first time this year — he struggled on the greens.
it wasn’t until he got to the driveable, par-four 12th that he mustered his first birdie and that was a two-putt.
Another birdie followed at the par five 16th.
So to the 17th. What a contrast to the excitement when he had walked on to that tee a day earlier. What a contrast in the result as well.
Woods who finally carded a 72, will finish up on Sunday and then play one more event, the WGC Match Play in Texas next week, before the Masters next month.
Among the early finishers, Players debutant Matt Wallace shot 70 to move into the top 40 on four under, while Matt Fitzpatrick, runner-up in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, shot 72 to stand on three under.
Woods looked deflated as he fell nine shots behind the midway leaders at Sawgrass