CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tiger Woods was the beneficiary of an unusual ruling at the par-5 fifth hole on Friday.
His second shot flew left into the trees and disappeared. But Woods got a free drop after PGA TOUR rules official Mark Russell decided someone must have picked up the ball that spectators said landed in an area of trampled down pine needles. Fans ran to surround the area but the ball was nowhere to be found.
There were no bushes or mulch where the ball could have been lost. Russell said "it would have been a totally different situation" had that been the case. So he made the decision to allow the free drop.
"One gentleman specifically, an older gentleman, told me, I saw the ball hit right here, I saw it bounce, it didn't look like it was going far, and then I saw several people come around and get around the ball where it was going, and the ball was vanished," Russell said. "... Listen, I'm thinking all the time, if you can't find the ball, the ball is lost. But based on the evidence we had, somebody must have picked the ball up the way I see it."
If Woods had to declare the ball lost, the penalty would have been stroke and distance. Instead, Woods was able to drop where the ball was thought to have landed, chipped on and two-putted from 27 feet for par.
Woods ended up shooting 73 and is in danger of missing the cut.
"A gentleman saw the ball land and roll, and another gentleman verified he saw the same thing," Woods explained. "There were about five or six people that ran over to the ball, and the next thing you know we get down there and there's hundreds of people and no ball. You saw an area there, there's really nothing there.
"We looked around for a while, and then Mark came over there and analyzed the situation and what was going on. We gave him all the information. The two gentlemen participated in the conversation, and we dropped it as close as we could to where they thought it was picked up. So that was it."