Bad-tempered Woods riled by rules row
Rarely does Tiger Woods embroil himself in controversy, especially in the week of a major, but this is not the case ahead of the US PGA at Hazeltine.
Woods stood by Sunday's criticism of highly respected referee John Paramor for putting the world number one and Padraig Harrington on the clock for slow play late in the final round of the WGC Invitational event at Firestone.
It had been erroneously reported that Woods had been fined for his comments in the wake of his four-shot victory over the Irishman. "There was no fine," he told reporters here at the venue of the last major of the year.
But officials may be tempted to examine the 33-year-old's latest comments on the incident which occurred on the par 5 16th hole in Ohio. They came in his pre-Championship news conference where he renewed his criticism of Europe's leading golf referee.
"I thought they would have used better judgement," Woods said. "We were the ones who were going to probably win the golf tournament in the last group.
"We separated ourselves and after what Paddy went through (a triple bogey eight), we were still right there behind the group in front of us. They didn't look like they were rushing.
"It certainly influenced us in how we played and influenced the outcome of the tournament. That's not how you want to have the tournament come to an end."
Asked whether he regretted personally criticising Paramor, Woods was equally forthright. "No, because he's the one who did it," the 14-time major winner bristled.
It was unusual to hear Woods in such a strident mood and it is clear he was seriously riled by Paramor's decision at Firestone.
Ironically on the rare occasions where Woods speaks out, it is usually to criticise slow play, not the penalising of it.
No one wants to see an official's intervention influencing the result and Harrington takes full responsibility for the ruinous eight that was entered on to his scorecard.
"I reacted poorly to the situation," the defending champion here said. "It's part of the rules that these things are going to happen."
Harrington then added somewhat tellingly: "It would have been probably better if it had happened earlier in the round."
Woods also had to defend himself from criticism of his increasingly bad tempered on- course demeanour. He has been seen throwing clubs, swearing and spitting all too regularly.
He began his reaction with his most annoying phrase. "It is what it is."
It sure is, Tiger.
"Unfortunately I do make mistakes and I hit bad shots and say bad things," he added.
"I don't mean to; it just comes out. It's not something that I try to do. It just happens.
"Have I been trying to get better at that? Yeah, my entire life. But it happens from time to time and I'm not the only person that does it."
So that's OK then? No regrets, no apologies, no fears for the example he sets to every youngster taking up the game. Enough said.
Anyway none of this will have any impact on preparations for a fascinating final major of 2009.
Harrington is fighting fatigue as he prepares for his title defence while Woods is oozing confidence after back-to-back wins that have followed his missed cut at Turnberry last month.
Of course Woods has gone into each of this year's majors off the back of wins and not followed up with a victory in one of the big ones. Will that frustrating run continue this week?
That is the burning question. One former leading pro suggested to me that the American's major failings this year might be a reflection of feeling the pressure of closing in on Jack Nicklaus' all time record of 18 majors.
It is surely too early to draw such a conclusion, but it's an interesting theory.
As for the course, well size isn't everything, so they say, but it doesn't seem that way in Minnesota this week.
While the media centre has shrunk - a sure sign of the economic times - the same can't be said of the Hazeltine layout.
The 91st PGA Championship will be contested on a course that if played to its full extent, will measure a monstrous 7,674 yards. This is a sure sign of the golfing times.
But we are used to this. Rarely do the world's best players turn up at a major venue that hasn't broken a distance record or two.
Happily first impressions suggest the course has been well set up. Recent rains have passed and although there's precious little run on damp fairways at the moment, hot sunshine is expected to provide a firm layout by the time the championship begins on Thursday.
And Harrington believes length won't be a huge issue given the likelihood of plenty of run and the exaggerated distances balls travel through hot air.
Yes, rather a lot of hot air around these parts at the moment - in more ways than one.
You'll be able to follow our updates throughout the week at Hazeltine on BBC Radio 5 live and 5 live sport extra, as well as my Tweets at Twitter.com/iaincartergolf.