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August 11, 2009

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Slow rule has Tiger seething

TIGER Woods criticized rules officials at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday after he overhauled Irishman Padraig Harrington to win the elite tournament for a record seventh time.

The American world No. 1 effectively sealed victory with a birdie at the par-five 16th, where he struck a superb eight-iron to a foot after he and Harrington had been put on the clock for slow play.

Harrington's bid for a first title in 12 months on either the PGA or European tours unravelled on that hole as he ran up an ugly triple-bogey eight after hitting his fourth shot into water.

The resulting four-shot swing ended a gripping duel between the players on a hot and humid day at Firestone Country Club.

Although Woods accepted his brilliant third shot from 178 yards had put the pressure back on Harrington, he slammed European Tour chief referee John Paramor for his decision to put them on the clock.

"I'm sorry that John got in the way of a great battle because it was such a great battle for 16 holes," Woods told reporters after clinching his 70th PGA Tour victory by four shots.

"We're going at it head-to-head, and unfortunately that happened. I think being on the clock influenced him. I'm sure he would have taken a lot more time on his third shot to try to figure out how to play it, where to place the next one."

While on the clock, players must play their shots within an allocated time or risk an initial warning followed by a US$5,000 fine and a one-shot penalty for a second offence.

Paramor defended his decision.

"Padraig and Tiger's group were 13 minutes over time through 11 holes," he said in statement. "We could have put them on the clock at the 13th but we opted to cut them a bit of slack due to problems up at the 16th green at that time."

Paramor felt Harrington and Woods would be able to make up the time but, when they reached the 16th tee, he said they were 17 minutes behind schedule. "The 16th hole had opened up before they cleared the 15th green and therefore we had no choice but to put them on the clock at that stage," he added.

PGA Tour rules official Slugger White supported Paramor.

"I don't think John did get in the middle of it," he said. "John is doing his job. We would be criticized if that group was two holes behind ... It's just a regulation, guys. That's what it amounts to."

Harrington conceded he had been jolted out of his comfort zone while playing the 16th but accepted rules were rules. "When you're out of position, it's difficult to be on the clock," the three-time major winner said. "I was out of position on the tee shot, second shot and third shot."

The Irishman found the right rough off the tee and ended up in tangly grass behind the green for his third before his fourth bounced across the putting surface into a pond.


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