- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- If Tiger Woods saw an obvious rules violation while watching golf on television, he would not call officials to notify them of the incident.
While this is a common and accepted practice in golf -– and one that led to a huge controversy at the Masters for Woods -- the world's No. 1-ranked golfer would not pick up the phone.
"I don't ever see myself calling in and saying that Kobe (Bryant) traveled or things like that. ... or some offensive lineman held,'' Woods said Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, where he begins play at the Players Championship on Thursday. "But it's our sport, and that's what we've accepted. Certain groups are going to get more heat than others just because they're on TV. It is what it is.''
Woods made his most extensive comments since a tie for fourth last month at the Masters, where he received a two-stroke penalty after a rules official noticed a possible violation due to a drop Woods took on the 15th hole during the second round.
Masters officials decided not to penalize Woods but let him sign his scorecard without discussing the incident with him. When they later determined a two-shot penalty was in order due to comments Woods made to the media, they made the unusual decision to rescind disqualification -- the typical recourse when penalty strokes are assessed after a scorecard is signed.
Just last week, the USGA and R&A issued a joint, three-page statement explaining and ultimately backing Augusta National's decision.
Somewhat lost in all the controversy is Woods was leading the tournament when his approach hit the flagstick and bounced into the water. He was looking at a possible birdie, a certain par, and it turned into a bogey that later was changed to a triple-bogey.
And Woods never really recovered, as he began the third round five shots out of the lead and ultimately finished four strokes back of winner Adam Scott.
"I had a lot of momentum going at that time,'' he said. "I think I was tied for the lead with Fred (Couples), and I thought I'd stuffed it in there and I thought it was going to be a birdie and I could take the lead there and maybe sneak one in on the final three holes and basically start building a lead in the tournament. And it kind of turned the other way with a good shot.''
Woods had just four holes of practice on Tuesday after an early-morning flight from New York, where he appeared at a red carpet gala with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn.
"It was a big thing for her, and I'm supporting it,'' he said. "Certainly, I'm not really big into fashion stuff.
Asked if he would ever do something such as that on the Monday of a major championship week -- the Players is often referred to as the "fifth'' major -- Woods quipped, "Yeah, I've gone to the golf writers dinner at Augusta.''
The Players Championship and TPC Sawgrass in particular have not exactly been kind to Woods over the years. He has a single victory in 15 appearances, with only Riviera in Los Angeles yielding less wins at tournaments he's played at least 10 times.
And 2001 was when Woods was in the midst of his "Tiger Slam.'' He had won the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2000, then won the Players two weeks before capturing his fourth straight major at the 2001 Masters.
"I had a pretty good little run there,'' he said.
Woods tied for 40th last year after consecutive withdrawals because of injury. He finished eighth in 2009, one of just three top-10s in the tournament.
As for its place in golf's hierarchy, Woods said, "We have our four major championships, and that's that. But if there was going to be another one, this would be it. This is the best field that we have. We have guys from all over the world playing, and probably next to the PGA (Championship), one of the deepest and stiffest fields we'll face.''
If Tiger Woods saw an obvious rules violation while watching golf on television, he would not call officials to notify them of the incident.