AUGUSTA, Ga. — It wasn’t hard to spot him. Even on a rainy Masters Friday, at a soggy Augusta National, in a large Tiger Woods crowd saturated with police officers and security guards, one goateed man’s mud-stained uniform and dazed expression were a dead giveaway.
If you have no idea what near-calamity this is in reference to, here’s some important background. On the 14th hole Friday, Woods hit a remarkable escape shot from the left trees. As he watched the ball soar toward the green, the crowd around him started to draw closer. But one overzealous police officer jumped too quickly to action, slipped hard on the mud and nearly took out the most famous golfer of all time.
Less than 30 minutes after the could-have-been-disaster, the officer took a moment to collect himself behind the 15th green. Mud covered the front and back of his pants as he and a co-worker grabbed water behind the bleachers.
“Well, he made birdie, so I guess it all worked out,” he told GOLF.com, shaking his head. “Man, I am really glad he made birdie.”
Woods had come up limping and wincing immediately after the contact, but appeared to walk off the injury as he made his way up to the green. Lost in the commotion was the result of his fantastic shot: He had penetrated a small window in the trees, caught the left edge of the green and trickled to 28 feet, a putt that he drained with a fist pump alongside it.
But score hardly felt relevant — this man’s slip-and-fall had already gone viral.
“Now I’m all over the internet,” the officer said. “My boss told me — I don’t have my phone but he does. It’s on Bleacher Report. It’s going to be everywhere. I guess it already is, like, everywhere.”
The officer said he didn’t think he struck Woods very hard, and attributed his reaction to surprise more so than injury. Woods didn’t look back or say anything to the officer afterwards, he said.
“I mean, I don’t know,” he said. “Everyone was just coming in so fast and we try to get in the right spot. It’s so slippery. I was fine until I slipped…and almost got Tiger Woods.” That, he said, got his heart racing.
The other officer chimed in. “There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s so slippery in that mud, there’s nothing you can do.”
After a handshake and a final plea for anonymity, the officer headed back toward the action to resume his work — this time from a safer distance.
For his part, Woods had no desire to make an issue of the near-accident. “It is what it is — accidents happen and we move on,” Woods told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after his round. “I’m good, dude.”
He’s good, indeed. As the officers returned to their duties, the bleachers at 15 erupted. Woods had just poured in another lengthy birdie putt, his second in a row, to get within one shot of the lead. Woods appeared to be just fine.