The words Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington exchanged as they shook hands on the final green at Firestone on Sunday drew down the curtain on a remarkable contest but also ignited a major controversy.
As he congratulated Woods for his victory at The Bridgestone Invitational, Harrington set aside his disappointment and made this promise to the world No 1: “We'll do battle many times again.”
Tiger's reply gave full measure of his respect for Harrington and made plain his anger that being put on the clock at 16 led directly to the Dubliner's calamitous eight at the hole and ruined the contest.
“I'm sorry John got in the way of such a great battle,” Woods said to Harrington. Tiger then hung the official involved, European Tour Chief Referee John Paramour, out to dry when he repeated that assertion at his post-round media conference.
“I don't know if you guys know it or not, but we got put on the clock (on the tee at 16),” said Woods, adding he believed Harrington would not have hit that ill-fated pitch over the green and into the water at the par five “if he was able to take him time, look at it and analyse it.
“But he was on the clock so he had to get up there quickly and hit it,” added Tiger, saying he didn't understand the benefit of putting them on the clock when, in his opinion, it resulted directly in a lengthy delay as Harrington sorted out his penalty drop after hitting his ball into the pond.
“We hit our tee shots on 17 and the guys in front were just walking off the tee on 18,” Woods added. “So I don't know”.
Paramour and Tournament Director Slugger White insisted the official had merely been doing his job when he put the final group on the clock on the tee at 16 because they were 17 minutes behind schedule at that stage.
“Padraig and Tiger's group were 13 minutes over time through 11 holes,” Paramor explained. “We could have put them on the clock at 13 but we opted to cut them a bit of slack due to problems up ahead at 16 at that time with the JB Holmes group.
“We thought that would allow them get back into position on the golf course but they ended up playing the 13th and 14th poorly and the 15th was not too quick either.
“By the time they reached the 16th tee, they were actually 17 minutes over the time schedule, some four minutes worse than they had been earlier. The 16th hole opened up before they cleared the 15th green and therefore we had no choice but to put them on the clock at that stage.”
White staunchly defended Paramor in the face of Tiger's criticism. “I don't think John did get in the middle of it. He was doing his job.
“We'd be criticised if that group was two holes behind and finishing at 10 after six. It's just a regulation. That's what it amounts to.”
Asked if the pressure for tournaments to fit into the time allocated by the TV networks has any bearing in situations like these, White bluntly admitted: “Of course it does.”
Harrington admitted he'd “rushed” two shots which led directly to his demise on 16.
Typically, Harrington declined to make a big issue of it.
“It's an awkward situation,” he said.
“There are rules, and the players make the rules and we've got to apply them.”