- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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The Tiger Woods-Sergio Garcia flap has taken another turn, as two marshals who were working the second hole at the TPC Sawgrass on Saturday dispute the account of two other marshals who accused Woods of lying about distracting Garcia.
The Florida-Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville said two marshals -- both part of the walking escort for Woods group -- have taken issue with a Sports Illustrated report that questioned the No. 1-ranked golfer's version of the events.
"It is not true and definitely unfair to Tiger,'' Brian Nedrich told the Times-Union. "That's because I was the one Tiger heard say that Sergio had hit.''
Garcia said on Saturday that Woods distracted him during his second shot at the par-5 second hole when Woods pulled a club out of his bag while surveying his shot from left of the fairway. Woods had hit an errant drive, and the crowd had to be moved to clear a path, with Woods trying to figure out his strategy.
When he pulled a wood from his bag, spectators cheered -- which happened to be when Garcia, 50 yards away on the right side of the fairway, was addressing his ball. He went ahead with the shot, sprayed it into the trees, then immediately looked over at the commotion, obviously displeased.
That led to a verbal spat between the two longtime adversaries that continued Saturday night and into Sunday morning after the conclusion of the weather-delayed third round, and again after Woods had won the tournament -- with the help of Garcia, who hit two balls in the water at the par-3 17th when he was tied for the lead with Woods.
Woods said Saturday night that he was told by a marshal that Garcia, whom he could not see behind the spectators, had already hit before he selected a club. Replays have shown that not to be the case, but also show that Garcia was not in his backswing when the crowd made noise.
Two Players marshals, John North and Gary Anderson, were quoted by SI as saying that Woods didn't ask any marshals about Garcia's status, and none was given.
"He didn't ask us nothing and we didn't say nothing," Anderson said to SI about Woods. "We're told not to talk to the players."
"Nothing was said to us and we certainly said nothing to him," North told SI. "I was disappointed to hear him make those remarks ... he was saying what was good for him. It lacked character."
Not true, said Nedrich, of Fleming Island, Fla, and Lance Paczkowski, of St. Augustine, Fla. They told the Times-Union they were within 10 to 12 yards of Woods.
They said there was communication, and that Woods only mistook the sequence of events. Paczkowski, who walked with Woods all 18 holes with a team of escorts, said he even asked Woods if he needed any more fans moved.
"He said, 'No ... I'm good,'" Paczkowski said. "We talk to players all the time, if we need to in regards to their needs and crowd control."
Nedrich, who said he could barely see Garcia, got a glimpse of him swinging, then saw the ball in the air. When fans behind Woods began to stir, Paczkowski, his view of Garcia blocked by bushes, tried to quiet them and said, "the other player (Garcia) hasn't hit yet."
"That's when I yelled back at Lance, 'No ... he's already hit,'" Nedrich said. "Tiger had already taken his club, but we did tell him that Sergio had hit."
Nedrich told the newspaper that he understands why Woods was mistaken about the timeline.
"There was a lot going on, as usual, when Tiger plays," Nedrich said. "Then, he's trying to have the concentration he needs to win a tournament. It's easy to get small details out of whack when things happen so fast. It was an unfortunate incident and I don't think either player is to blame."
Nedrich said it was also stretching it to call Woods a liar, as was suggested from the SI report.
"It's disingenuous to suggest that Tiger is a liar because he got a minor detail wrong," Nedrich said. "Basically, he told the truth."
"Tiger Woods did not lie," Paczkowski said. "Was there a small mistake in what he remembered? Yes. But I don't think it rises to the level of lying."
Woods was not made available for comment but his agent, Mark Steinberg, said Wednesday: "The comments from the marshals in today's story definitively show that Tiger was telling the truth about being told Sergio had hit. I hope this demonstrates to some reporters the importance of accuracy and not jumping to misplaced conclusions.''