August 12, 2005

Woods and caddie cleared by officials of wrongdoing

By Steve Keating

SPRINGFIELD, New Jersey (Reuters) - U.S. PGA Championship
officials defused a Tiger Woods controversy on Friday,
dismissing suggestions the world number one's caddie Steve
Williams had stepped on his ball the previous day.

Woods, who carded an opening five-over-par 75, could have
faced disqualification for signing an improper scorecard if
officials ruled that Williams, whether or not intentionally,
had trod on Woods's ball and failed to admit to doing so.

"There is absolutely no evidence that he (Williams) stepped
on the ball," said Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's managing
director of tournaments. "We know nothing happened."

The incident took place on the par-five 18th during
Thursday's first round at Baltusrol after Woods's tee shot
drifted left into thick rough lining the bank of a creek
running alongside the fairway.

When the ball was finally located, it was deeply embedded
in the soft ground. Initially believing a television crew had
been responsible for the plugged ball, Woods asked rules
officials for relief.

However, officials were unable to determine whether anyone
had stepped on the ball and Woods was forced to take a penalty
drop. He ended up with a bogey-six there after two-putting from
18 feet.

Later in the day, the local Star-Ledger newspaper, based on
television footage obtained from broadcaster CBS, published a
story suggesting New Zealander Williams may have stepped on the

Questioned by the Star-Ledger, Williams vehemently denied
doing so.

Seeking his third major title of the year, American Woods
will tee off later on Friday simply trying to make the cut.
Since turning professional in 1996, Woods has never failed to
make the cut in a major.

Victory this week would lift Woods's career major total to
11 and match fellow American Walter Hagen, who is second on the
all-time list behind Jack Nicklaus (18).