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Throwback Thursday: That time Tiger Woods had his gallery perform manual labor and move a boulder

January 31, 2019

There are all the obvious reasons why it's good to be Tiger Woods — oodles of cash, 80 tour wins, free shoes from Nike. And then there are the less obvious ones—like if you happen to land a tee shot behind a boulder, you can easily recruit enough spectators to move the boulder for you.

This actually happened, as you probably recall. The USGA certainly does. Playing the Phoenix Open in 1999 -- two years after he famously aced the par-3 16th hole in the tournament -- Woods drove his tee shot on the par-5 13th hole left and behind a boulder.


Without much of a shot to the green, Woods inquired whether the boulder was a loose impediment and could be moved. When the answer was yes, Woods enlisted members of his gallery, including then-caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan, for their help.


With the boulder moved back, Woods was given a clear shot to the green. He got home in two and made birdie, but still finished three shots behind winner Rocco Mediate.


The incident remains controversial because it spoke to the advantage Woods had in having a large gallery. Would a Monday qualifier in the first grouping get the same help? Probably not. But 15 years later, the USGA maintains what the player did was perfectly within the Rules of Golf, citing Decision 23-1/3: "May spectators, caddies, fellow-competitors, etc., assist a player in removing a large loose impediment?" The answer is "Yes."

For all that hospitality (and his infamous ace there in 1997) it's worth noting Woods' experience at TPC Scottsdale has beenmixed.

That same year, a fan who was following Woods was arrested when police discovered he was carrying a gun in his fanny pack. Two years after that, a fan threw an orange onto the green when Woods was putting. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Woods didn't return again until 2015, when he returned to the tour after an extended hiatus and shot 82.