An Old Rivalry Set to Resume

By Associated PressJuly 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Tiger Woods couldn't even see the flag, but he knew his 4-iron was close to perfect. Thousands of fans who were crammed elbow-to-elbow on a grassy hillock above the 14th green saw the ball bang into the cup, but they had no idea who hit it.
 
Seconds later, when Woods emerged from behind a row of bunkers and high-fived his caddie, the mystery was over.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods holds the 36-hole lead after posting a 7-under 65 in Rd. 2 at Hoylake.
The question Friday was whether the British Open was over, too.
 
Woods put on a clinic with his long irons, none more spectacular than his eagle from 209 yards on one of the toughest holes at Royal Liverpool. It carried him to a 7-under 65, matching his best score ever in a major, and gave him a one-shot lead over Ernie Els.
 
'I was just trying to land the ball on the front edge and let it chase on there and get my 4 and go on,' Woods said. 'It happened to go in.'
 
But when asked whether the tournament was over, Woods tapped the table.
 
'I'm not here with the (claret) jug,' he said. 'We've got a long way to go, man.'
 
Even so, his name atop the leaderboard is a daunting sight at Grand Slam events. This is the seventh time Woods has had the 36-hole lead in a major, and he has never lost from out front.
 
That didn't seem to bother Els. When the Big Easy headed to the first tee, the scoreboard already showed Woods at 12 under par.
 
Instead of getting spooked, Els was inspired.
 
'If he's 12 under, there's some birdies to be made out there,' Els said. 'I had to get my share of them.'
 
Els made birdie on all the par 5s, and picked up two more strokes with shots that were every bit as good as Woods', though not quite as dramatic. One was a bump-and-run 7-iron that stopped rolling 2 feet from the cup on No. 3, the other a 4-iron into 15 feet left of the flag on the 14th. He made birdie from just short of the par-5 18th for his 65.
 
All along, his target was Woods and that posted score of 12-under 132.
 
'I didn't want to back down,' Els said. 'I really was trying to get into this final group. I haven't been in this position for a while. I'd love to play as well or even better on the weekend. Maybe I'll have to.'
 
It will be the first time Woods and Els have played in the final group at a major since the last round of the 2000 U.S. Open, although that was hardly a fair fight. Woods had a 10-shot lead, and wound up winning by 15.
 
But with two days remaining, the British Open was hardly a two-man race.
 
Chris DiMarco, whose mother died of a heart attack July 4, emerged from his slump with a 65 and was three shots behind at 9-under 135. Another shot back was two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who had a 66.
 
Still, it all starts with Woods, who is trying to become the first back-to-back British Open champion since Tom Watson in 1982-83.
 
'Tiger at his best is hard to beat,' said DiMarco, who lost a playoff to Woods in the Masters last year. 'Tiger at a course he likes at his best is really hard to beat. All I can do is go out and try to play the best golf I can play. Anything can happen in 36 holes.'
 
Masters champion Phil Mickelson will need a lot to happen. He never got anything going in his 71, leaving him eight shots behind. That still leaves him in better shape than Vijay Singh, who started bogey-double bogey on his way to a 76, missing the cut for the first time in 15 majors.
 
What might make Woods tough to catch is the caution with which he is playing Royal Liverpool.
 
Woods has hit only one driver in two rounds, opting for a 2-iron off most par 4s and a 3-wood on the par 5s with the ground so firm and the pot bunkers lurking on every fairway. That leaves him longer irons into the green, but that was no problem.
 
Nothing was more magical than his 4-iron in the second round, even from short range.
 
Woods' approach to the par-5 fifth hole went over the green and down the slope. He used a 4-iron to scoot the ball up the hill and down toward the flag, the ball stopped 6 inches behind the cup. Then came a 4-iron from 190 yards on the 12th hole that was pure, stopping 12 feet away. Woods missed the putt, but the swing stuck in his memory, and it was instant recall two holes later.
 
He again laid well back of the bunkers -- Woods often spotted short-hitting Nick Faldo some 30 yards off the tee -- and had 194 yards to the front of the 14th green.
 
'I was basically hitting the same shot, just trying to hold the ball in the wind,' he said. 'And I really hit it flush and held it nicely. I hit it on my line -- I was looking at the left edge of the TV tower -- and if the wind blows it over, that's fine.'
 
He watched it as long as he could, then was startled to hear the cheers, and see the British fans raise their arms in unison. It was a muted cheer, nothing like the roar of Augusta National or Bethpage Black, partially because it happened so fast and no one was quite sure who hit it.
 
'It went in?' Woods asked caddie Steve Williams.
 
Indeed, it did. The gallery gave him a standing ovation when Woods was still 50 yards from the green.
 
Back in the fairway, Williams jokingly tried to make Woods carry the bag.
 
'We keep hitting the perfect 4-iron,' Williams said he told him. 'I'll give you the bag, and I'll just carry the 4-iron.'
 
The only blemish for Woods was a bogey on the third hole when he found the rough, and failing to birdie the par-5 18th after pulling his 3-wood into the left rough, making him play well short of the green.
 
Els usually winds up on the short end against Woods. He has finished second to him seven times, far more than any other player, including a playoff loss in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year when Els hit into the water.
 
He knows about Woods' record as the leader, and that pushed him as he played the final nine late in the afternoon.
 
'I didn't want to get crazy aggressive, but I needed to keep the foot on the pedal,' Els said. 'As you know, and as I know, he's quite a good front-runner, so you need to reach out and try to hold him back. He's not going to back down from a lead.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
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  • Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

    A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

    In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

    “I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

    Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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    “I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

    Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

    “We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

    How does she feel?

    “I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

    Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

    New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

    Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

    She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

    “I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

    Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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    Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

    Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

    Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

    “Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

    Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

    “I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

    You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

    By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

    Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

    Race to the CME Globe

    Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

    Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

    The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

    Ariya Jutanugarn is also one shot off the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

    Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

    So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

    Rolex Player of the Year

    The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

    Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

    Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

    Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

    It’s simple math.

    The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

    1st - 30 points

    2nd – 12 points

    3rd – 9 points

    4th – 7 points

    5th – 6 points

    6th – 5 points

    7rd – 4 points

    8th – 3 points

    9th – 2 points

    10th – 1 point

    Vare Trophy

    Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

    Money-winning title

    Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

    Rolex world No. 1 ranking

    World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

    Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

    At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

    Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

    By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

    Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

    ''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

    Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

    ''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

    Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

    ''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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    J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

    ''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

    ''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

    He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

    ''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

    Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

    ''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''