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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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


    Masters victory


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    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

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    Man of the people


    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


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    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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    Departure from TaylorMade


    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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    Victory at Valderrama


    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm