Tiger Woods flexed his considerable muscle as one of the most powerful men in golf last night when he threw more fuel on the blaze of controversy that has been raging since he accused a European Tour rules official of sabotaging the climax of Sunday’s Bridgestone Invitational.
As Padraig Harrington revealed that he did some “comfort eating” by treating himself to his first burger of the season after “messing up” a golden opportunity to get one over on the game’s top player, Woods refused to back down or apologise for personalising the slow play drama that unfolded at Firestone by naming and shaming John Paramor as the party pooper.
More dramatically, he revealed that he while he has been spoken to by the PGA Tour for his remarks, he has not been fined for saying: “I'm sorry that John got in the way of a great battle.”
It's the only time the word sorry has passed his lips.
“I've heard from the TOUR and there's no fine,” Woods said. “That was an erroneous report.”
The respected news agency, the Associated Press, reported on Monday night that Woods would be fined for his public criticism of a rules official after a tour official spoke on condition of anonymity because the tour does not publicise fines.
The reporter in question, Doug Ferguson, has high ranking sources within the tour. So what happened between Monday and last night’s news conference?
Either the Associated Press got it badly wrong or the PGA Tour backed down over the issue, bringing the conspiracy theorists into the equation
Perhaps they were worried about the possibility that the biggest draw in golf might be unavailable for the forthcoming FedEx Cup play-offs, which begin on August 27. Maybe his knee would start acting up before October's President’s Cup.
Privately, Harrington is said to be fuming about Paramor’s decision to put the final group on the clock at Firestone when they were well clear of the field and engaged in a fascinating head-to-head for the title.
But why would Harrington say anything critical when he has Woods fighting his battle for him? Why sound like a bad loser choking on sour grapes?
“I think it's easier for him, having won the tournament,” Harrington said. “He can take the moral high ground and say what he wants. Having lost the tournament, I'm going to sit back and take it on the chin and say it was my mistake.
“What could I say? I suppose that's best left said to him. As I said, he's in a better position to say it.”
Woods was in no mood to back-track when asked about the incident that saw Paramor put them on the clock as they walked off the 16th tee, resulting in Harrington rushing to get back into position after missing the fairway and racking up a tournament wrecking triple bogey eight to go from one ahead to three behind.
Asked if he regretted personalising the slow play controversy by naming Paramor, Woods insisted: “No. Because he's the one who did it."
Woods added: “I thought they would have used better judgement on that considering that, as I said, we were the ones that were probably going to win the golf tournament in the last group. We separated ourselves.
“The way I understood it, we were the only two in contention to win the event. We had separated ourselves. The winner was not going to come from the groups ahead, even though Robert (Allenby) played just a great round ahead of us.
“It was going to come from our group. And we were having a great battle. When we were put on the clock, it certainly changed everything.
“And after what Paddy went through on 16, we were still right there behind the group in front of us (when we reached the 17th). So I don't know if the group in front of us was being timed or not. They didn't look like they were rushing.
“But it certainly influenced us in how we played and influenced the outcome of the tournament, which that's not how you want to have the tournament come to an end.”
Harrington revealed that he revealed that his defeat was tough to take and his only comfort is that he has another chance to grab some major glory this week.
“I had the first burger of the year when I came off the golf course on Sunday,” he said. “I did a bit of comfort eating. Then I flew straight here after that and I struggled to sleep that night
“The next morning I went out hunting for fish and frogs with the kids, caught four frogs in the pool and a couple of fish in the pond at the house we have. That does get your mind back on track.”
Having discussed what happened with his inner circle from his family to his caddie and his mental coach Bob Rotella, he came to the conclusion that focussing on his defence of the US PGA title is the best medicine.
He said: “I can see myself becoming a better player because of it, and you move on. The great thing about golf, there's always next week. That's the fantastic thing. Like the minute I hit the practice round here, I obviously didn't sleep great Sunday night.
“I was tired but struggling to get to sleep. I woke up early still thinking about it. But the minute I hit the practice round, I'm thinking about the PGA. It's all about the PGA.”