Notes Tiger a Bit Rusty

By Associated PressNovember 4, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Tour Championship by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Tiger Woods usually returns from three- and four-week layoffs as if he never left the PGA Tour. That much was true Thursday in the Tour Championship.
Woods has struggled to find fairways, and his short game has been mediocre most of the year. Getting married Oct. 5 in Barbados, and spending a three-week honeymoon on his yacht in the Caribbean, didn't change a thing.
'It's a little rusty, no doubt about that,' Woods said. 'I short-sided myself a little bit, and you just can't do that. Consequently, I made a couple bogeys there and missed a couple of putts I should have made.'
He wound up with a 72, his first round over par since the PGA Championship.
Woods had a tough time judging his distances out of the Bermuda rough, and that was most evident on the fourth hole. His approach sailed over the green, some 50 feet down the hill. On a rare occasion when he was in the fairway, at No. 12, Woods came up 100 feet short of the flag.
'I just made some mental mistakes of where I needed to place the golf ball,' Woods said. 'Those are just mistakes that I normally don't make, and I won't make them again tomorrow.'
Ernie Els had a difficult time with his putter. It wasn't much better with his sand wedge.
The Big Easy had to use his sand wedge on the final two holes when he slammed an 8-iron into his bag and damaged his putter. Clubs that are altered other than the normal course of play cannot be used.
Els finished with two pars for a 72 and had a good sense of humor about his outburst.
'I wasn't making any putts,' he said. 'I figured I might as well use the sand wedge. That didn't work, either.'
It happened on the 17th hole, when Els hit an indifferent shot from the fairway bunker. Tiger Woods played with him, and wasn't sure what the commotion was behind him.
'I heard a little noise behind me as I was walking down the fairway,' Woods said. He turned to look and figured out quickly what had happened.
'The flat stick wasn't flat any more,' Woods said.
The best explanation came from Els' caddie, Ricci Roberts, who explained why his boss used a sand wedge.
'We changed the loft on our putter,' Roberts said.
John Daly is playing East Lake for the first time, having qualified for the Tour Championship for the first time since his rookie season in 1991.
East Lake is where Bobby Jones learned to play, and the clubhouse is a shrine to the greatest amateur ever.
And what would Jones have thought of Daly?
'I think Bobby would have liked me,' Daly said after a 69. 'You know, back then it wasn't a problem after you play golf to have a few drinks. Now, it's a sin out here. I think I would have fit in with him pretty good. I wouldn't have worn a tie, though.'
A painful year for Jerry Kelly ends Sunday, and he's not sure what is next - surgery on his right shoulder or a fitness routine with hopes his joint heals on its own.
'One guy wants to take a centimeter off the collar bone, another guy wants to take the entire AC joint out. My best course of action is this therapist can get me feeling to where I can try and heal it myself.'
Kelly found a new physical therapist this week, and he said he has felt better than he has in 10 months.
He believes the injury stems from his days as a hockey player. Kelly played in high school and went to the University of Hartford on a hockey scholarship. Just his luck, the school canceled the hockey program when he arrived, so Kelly switched over to golf and has enjoyed a good career with three PGA Tour victories.
'It's strictly from hammering the boards as many times as I did,' he said.
Kelly said he will not have surgery if it means missing the Sony Open in January, where he is a past champion.
Despite the heavy rain Thursday morning that left East Lake soggy, PGA Tour officials decided against allowing the players to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.
'There was about three or four holes that I had wedge in my hand and really didn't have a shot because there was so much mud on the ball,' John Daly said.
Mike Weir was among those surprised the tour did not use preferred lies. He said rules officials decided against that five minutes before the first tee time.
'I guess they don't want us touching the ball, this being the last tournament of the year,' he said.
Tiger Woods also had no qualms. Because only 31 players are at the Tour Championship, there was only a two-hour difference between the first and last starting time.
'It's the 30 best players. Why not?' Woods said.
Davis Love III was 2 over through 14 holes when he withdrew because of a recurring neck injury. That means Love will end the season without a victory for the fourth time in the last six years.
Love's year started well, losing to Tiger Woods in the finals of the Match Play Championship and getting another runner-up finish at the Honda Classic when Todd Hamilton birdied the last two holes.
The year wasn't a total bust. Despite no victories, Love earned just over $3 million.
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