Big Guns Fire Blanks on Saturday

By Associated PressJune 18, 2005, 4:00 pm
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Three of the best players in the world.
 
One birdie between them.
 
And one U.S. Open trophy slipping slowly from their grasp.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' back is against the wall as he tries to win the Grand Slam.
On a day when the Open never seemed so wide open, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia set off on a hot afternoon to make the charge for the lead that almost everyone in the huge crowds massed around Pinehurst No. 2 expected.
 
What they got instead was an old-fashioned lesson from an old-fashioned golf course that frustrated them at every turn.
 
'Let's get the hell out of here,' Woods said to playing partner Rocco Mediate after scrambling to save his par on the final hole.
 
Woods had more reason to be happy than Singh or Garcia. At least he could go home after a tough day at the office and say he made a birdie. When it came on the 11th hole, he raised his arms, closed his eyes and looked toward the sky. He then licked his index finger and traced a number in the air as if to say, 'Chalk one up.'
 
The total for Singh and Garcia? Zilch, zero.
 
No birdies, nothing even really close. Just a lot of frustration, and some numbers that likely eliminated them from any hope they had of winning their first Open title.
 
Singh, who began the day just two shots off the lead, shot a 74 and trails Retief Goosen by seven shots going into Sunday's final round. It was the first time since the PGA Championship last August that Singh went an entire round without a birdie - a tournament, by the way, that he won.
 
Garcia was another shot back after his 5-over 75.
 
Compared to them, Woods was sitting pretty. Not only did he make a birdie, but his 72 left the top player in the world six shots back and still somewhat optimistic about adding an Open title to his Masters win.
 
'You shoot a quality round tomorrow and you don't know what's going to happen,' Woods said. 'I've been in this situation before. I've won majors and I know how to handle it.'
 
Well, maybe not quite this situation. All nine of his major championship wins came when he was either tied for the lead or ahead going into the final round.
 
He's never had to make up a six-shot deficit, and to win he'd have to do it against the defending Open champion.
 
'I've done this (win) in this event twice,' Woods said. 'That's huge to be able to say to yourself going down the stretch. It gives you a sense of confidence.'
 
If Woods doesn't start making birdies, all the confidence in the world isn't going to give him his third Open title. He's preached patience all week, shooting at the center of greens, but it hasn't translated into low scores.
 
While Goosen made five birdies in one round Saturday, Woods has made only six all week. The pins are so nasty and the greens so severe, he's been lagging putts out of fear they'll roll off the greens.
 
'I had only two real good looks at birdie,' Woods said. 'Other than that, I'm just lagging most of the putts.'
 
The day started badly for Woods, who couldn't find the first fairway even while using an iron off the tee. His second shot went over the green and he chipped up and missed the putt for an opening bogey.
 
Woods also bogeyed the third hole, missed a short birdie putt on the 13th and hit a tree on the last hole before recovering for par.
 
The most revealing stats for both Woods and the golf course came on the greens. He hit 16 of them, but was often 30 to 40 feet away and needed an almost unheard of 36 putts for the round.
 
'Most of my shots were 20, 30 and 40 feet away because you can't take a run at these flags,' he said. 'You have a wedge in your hand and you're firing 15 feet right or left of the hole. The golf course is so demanding that you just can't afford to miss on that short side. You have to somehow put the ball in the center of the green and hopefully make a 20- to 30-footer.'
 
Pinehurst treated other big names just as badly.
 
The other two members of the so-called Big Five - Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els - had similar problems on the greens. Els was 12 shots back after a 72, while Mickelson's attempt to play his way back into the tournament blew apart with a triple bogey on the easiest hole on the golf course, the par-5 fourth.
 
Like Woods, though, Mickelson wasn't ready to admit defeat even after his 72 left him 11 shots off the lead.
 
'I'm not going to go into tomorrow's round feeling as though I don't have a shot,' Mickelson said. 'I just feel that I can shoot a low score out there, even though I'll have to make 30- and 40-footers to do it. I'm not going to go into the final round defeated.'
 
Related links:
  • Leaderboard - 105th U.S. Open
  • Full Coverage - 105th U.S. Open

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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.