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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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."