"I'm sorry that John got in the way of such a great battle."
Where to start with the Woods-Harrington-John Paramor "on-the-clock" incident Sunday? CBS downplayed it but the post round comments indicate it was the story of the day.
Here's Steve Elling with the lowdown:
Harrington, always a deliberate player, held a one-stroke lead over Woods as they stood on the 16th, nicknamed The Monster decades ago by Arnold Palmer after he made an awful eight on the hole (the symmetry is duly noted). Then Paramor, who had issued a warning to the pair on the sixth hole to speed up, informed them they were being timed with a stopwatch.
The result was a monstrosity, all right.
Harrington blew his tee shot into the right trees and rushed his way through a series of uncharacteristically sloppy shots -- the three-time major championship winner had made a steady 14 pars and a birdie to that point in the round -- and the match was effectively over when he stumbled to a horrific, hurried triple-bogey.
Harrington was fairly diplomatic about the issue but repeatedly described his shots on the 16th as "rushed."
"It wasn't, 'pick up the pace,' it was, 'on the clock,'" Harrington explained of the 16th tee conversation. "It's an awkward situation. There are rules and the players make the rules and we've got to apply them.
"Obviously, it was a difficult situation, and you don't want to get out of position."
Doug Ferguson noted that Tiger suggested the incident helped him win.
Woods took particular umbrage at how fast Harrington was effectively forced to play the flop shot that sailed into the water. Bluntly asked whether he won the tournament because he'd hit the perfect 8-iron into the 16th or because a rules official put their group on the clock, Woods never hesitated.
"Both," he said. "I think I hit a good shot that put a little heat on him, but then again, I think the worst he would have made would have been bogey."
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."
It's interesting to see that Tiger, who craves controversy about as much as he embraced Turnberry, was the one to bring the warning up in the first post round interview question. And not in a subtle way:
Q. Congrats on No. 70, amazing number. What was it like standing there on the 16th green? He hit five shots while you were standing there, six if you count the penalty stroke. Have you ever seen the tournament in the throes of the last few minutes go down like that for you?
TIGER WOODS: I don't know if you guys know it or not, but we got put on the clock. I don't think that Paddy would have hit the pitch shot that way if he was able to take his time, look at it, analyze it, but he was on the clock, had to get up there quickly and hit it --
Slugger White was brought in to the press center to defend the move.
They were told early in the round, I don't know what hole on the front nine, that they were in danger of losing the group ahead of them. When they got to 15 tee, they were 18 minutes over their allotted time, and the par-5 16th was open. That's basically just regulation is what that is. We're doing our job.
ESPN.com's Bob Harig reviewed the incident in this piece and equated it to this:
But to put it in American sports terms, it was akin to calling a ticky-tack foul in the late stages of a basketball game.
Bottom line was he was on his heels and hurrying, he said, which is an unenviable position when facing the top player in the game down the stretch at one of the tour's richest events
You may recall Paramor's name. It's been a busy year. He was quoted in Lawrence Donegan's story that broke the Kenny Perry-FBR incident open and very nearly called Richie Ramsay a cheater this summer.
Alright, so this is a tricky one.
Obviously, it's wonderful to see officials doing their job and dishing out on-the-clock warnings. Harrington is very slow and he needs to be nudged more often.
But on the 70th hole of an exciting duel, when CBS surely isn't complaining about having Tiger in a battle with Harrington in East coast prime time? Was this really the time when you haven't dished out slow play a penalty shot since 1992?
In his defense, that is not Paramor's job to worry about. He's battling an awkward dilemma because the tours and governing bodies having decided not to take slow play seriously. In the PGA Tour's case, there has been a failure to give the rules officials the support needed to more diligently police slow-pokes, so when moments like this occur it is a shock to the player's system.