Tiger Woods showed Padraig Harrington massive respect when he blamed rules officials for the Dubliner’s 16th hole horror show that turned their electric Bridgestone Invitational showdown into a damp squib.
Ireland’s triple major winner had the title snatched from his grasp at the 667 yard par-five they call “The Monster” when they were put on the clock and he rushed his way to a triple bogey eight, one-hopping a flop shot into the water to go from one ahead to three behind.
As they shook hands on the 18th, Harrington played down the clock cock-up, looked Tiger in the eye and vowed: "We'll do battle many times again.”
That opportunity will come this week when they meet in the first two rounds of the US PGA at Hazeltine. And Woods will be keen to win it fair and square.
He refused to take full credit for his 70th PGA Tour win despite hitting an incredible eight-iron to six inches on 16 that sealed a four-shot swing on the hole before a birdie at the last gave him a 65 and an eventual four-shot win over Harrington and Robert Allenby.
Asked bluntly afterwards if he’d won because of his wonder shot or because rules official John Paramor had put their group on the clock on the 16th tee, Woods didn’t even pause for breath.
Woods insisted: “Both! 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.
“I think being on the clock influenced him. I'm sure he would have taken a lot more time on his third shot to try to figure out how to play it, where to place the next one.
“I'm sorry that John got in the way of a great battle because it was such a great battle for 16 holes, and we're going at it head-to-head, and unfortunately that happened.”
Woods has nothing but respect for Harrington and can’t wait to take him on again soon.
He said: “Paddy and I have done it before, did it at the Dunlop Phoenix, we did it here, and we'll definitely do it down the road. Paddy and I will definitely do it again.
“People always ask me who are the guys you should go watch and play, who are the guys you think you should model yourself after, and I always say Paddy and Jim Furyk and Vijay. Those guys work so hard on their games.
“I admire guys like that because that's how you become better. You have to go earn it. And I think that Paddy is a great example of a guy who goes out there and earns it each and every day.”
As for the time issue, rules are rules and PGA Tour tournament director Slugger White confessed that they were under pressure to finish at 6 o’clock local time due to TV schedules.
But what would have happened if they tournament had gone to a play-off between Woods and Harrington? Surely that would have been a dream scenario in terms of TV ratings?
The truth is that they played at a snail’s pace early in the day and were 18 minutes behind as they got to the 16th. The problem is that they weren’t given a warning earlier.
Harrington looked frustrated that their edge-of-the-seat battle down the stretch ended two holes too soon, denying him his third head-to-head victory over the world No 1.
Yes, he’s back to 10th in the world and up to 20th in the Race to Dubai and 70th in the FedEx Cup rankings.
He’s also close to his best in time for his US PGA Championship defence at Hazeltine National this week.
But the hangover from Akron could take its toll.
While he confessed that he was knocked completely out of the zone by the slow play warning, he sportingly refused to blame anyone else but himself and that's only fair. Woods was also on the clock but made birdie.
Harrington said: “It was a great match, a great battle as I said it would be yesterday. I was thoroughly enjoying it all the way through. I went after pins, I hit the ball well. I was well in the zone and felt it was buzzing along.”
Then came European Tour referee with his stopwatch and the rest is history.
Sportsman that he is, Harrington added: “It's an awkward situation. There are rules and the players make the rules and we've got to apply them.”
Harrington took the positives from his Akron performance but while he insisted he would put his disappointment behind him, it could have a knock on effect.
Walking out of the scorer’s hut in Akron, he saw his wife and children and said: “Give me a hug. I need a hug.”
Later he insisted: “I'm very positive about where my swing is going, but I do take comfort from the fact that I performed and did my thing today for most of the day and I learned from that on 16 and won't let it happen again.
“I don't see it being an issue. I've got the PGA next week. At the end of the day, when I start hitting shots tomorrow, today will be forgotten about.
“I'll certainly not be too happy going to bed tonight, I'll be thinking about it. But when I get up and start working tomorrow, it will be all in the back of my mind.
“I was happy with the week overall. Obviously it is a disappointing finish to the week but I'll go do my stuff for the PGA now and see what happens with that.
“There's no doubt that it's not the greatest preparation in the world to have an adrenaline‑filled week of holding the lead all week and doing all the interviews and all that. That's not the best preparation for next week.
“But I'll probably just take it a little bit easier for the three practice days. I certainly won't be playing 54 holes over the next three days. I'll probably just take it easy and rest up, working on the principle that if I'm to win next week I've got to be fresh on Sunday.”