NASSAU, Bahamas -- Tiger Woods got a break from golf's evolving rulebook Friday, when he was not penalized for hitting his ball twice during a shot out of a bush on the 18th hole at Albany Golf Club.
A lengthy review of the issue at the Hero World Challenge determined that the rules infraction could only be determined with slow-motion video evidence. It was not "visible to the naked eye,'' nor did Woods feel that he hit had the ball twice, so no penalty was assessed.
"He didn't scrape or spoon or push the ball," said Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions. "And when he did that, Tiger said that he did not think he hit the ball twice.
"Looking at it in regular speed on a high-definition television, you couldn't tell that at all. But when you slow it down, you could see where the ball did stay on the clubface quite a bit of time and it looked like he might have hit it twice. But there's no way he could tell that."
Citing one of the Decisions in the Rules of Golf (34-3/10, Limitations on Use of Video Evidence), Russell said there would be no penalty.
"Basically it says if the player did not know that he did that, and the only way you can tell that is by using this type of slow-motion technology, he's exempt from the rule," Russell said. "There is no penalty there."
Woods would have had to add a penalty, which means his score would have gone from 6 to 7.
As of Jan. 1, that rule will change; there will no longer be a penalty and just one stroke will be counted for hitting the ball twice.
"I didn't feel like I made contact twice," Woods said. "It was such a short little shot, I was just trying to hit it sideways there. Under slow motion and high-def, you can see that the ball hit the clubface twice ... but there's no penalty. I'm sure that Mark will explain it to you better than I can, but the rules committee reviewed it for a while.
"In slow motion, you can see I did hit it twice. But in real time, I didn't feel that at all."
The final hole at Albany ruined what had been a solid day for Woods, who was 5 under par on his round and had not made a bogey.
But hitting a 3-wood off the tee, he flared it well to the right and it ended up in a bush.
Even without the penalty drama, Woods made a mess of the hole -- after he had birdied it on Thursday. After hitting that short shot out of the bush, he narrowly avoiding the water that fronts the green with his third shot. A long chip came up well short, and Woods did well not to three-putt, settling for a double bogey and a round of 69 at the event he hosts on behalf of his foundation.
"Today I played much better," said Woods, who shot a 73 in the first round. "I finally hit my irons the way I normally do. Other than the last tee shot, I felt I really hit the golf ball well.
"Yesterday I drove it great and didn't hit my irons well, and today I hit it like I normally do. If I would have just putted the way I normally do, this round could have easily been 8, 9 under."
Woods missed birdie putts of 7, 10, 12 and 4 feet on the front side, and he missed a 5-footer at the 11th as well. He birdied four of the five par-5s and got up and down for another birdie on the short par-4 14th. He stood on the 18th tee in the top seven of the tournament before missing the fairway and encountering problems with his second shot.
Two possible rules came into play.
First, Rule 14-1, which says the "ball must be fairly struck at with the head of the club and must not be pushed, scraped or spooned." The penalty for that is two strokes, and Russell determined there was no infraction in that case.
The second is Rule 14-4, which says "if a player's club strikes the ball more than once in the course of a stroke, the player must count the stroke and add a penalty stroke, making two strokes in all.'' (The penalty stroke goes away in 2019).
But in late 2013, golf's governing body added the decision that said penalty strokes would not be applied if the infraction "was not reasonably discernible to the naked eye at the time."
This was largely in response to violations that were caught on replay in which a ball barely moved on a green or in playing a shot that the player could not reasonably know without consulting slow-motion video.
"We just asked him if he thought he hit the ball twice; he said no," Russell said. "He didn't, that's the only way you could tell. If you looked at it at regular speed, it wouldn't enter your mind that he did. But if you look at it [in] ultra-slow motion, the ball did stay on the clubface quite a long time."
Woods was involved in similar a ruling at the 2013 BMW Championship, where he was penalized two strokes when attempting to play a shot from branches, and he was deemed to have caused the ball to move. It could be seen moving with the help of slow-motion video, and it is likely that had this decision been in place, that penalty would not have been called.
That was a year of several rules issues faced by Woods faced. The biggest came at the Masters, when he took an improper drop on the 15th hole during the second round. Woods failed to add two strokes to his scorecard, but he was saved from disqualification because Masters officials said they erred by not bringing the issue to his attention before he signed.
Woods had hit the flagstick on the hole and saw the ball carom back into the water. He elected to drop from the same spot, but went too far back before knocking the next shot close -- making what he thought was a 6 at the time. Two strokes were added, Woods took an 8 on the par-5 hole -- and ended up finishing four strokes back in the tournament.