A Wild Day in England

By Mercer BaggsJuly 19, 2003, 4:00 pm
SANDWICH, England -- Its all there. All the ingredients are in the mix to make the final round of the 132nd Open Championship one of the greatest in major memory.
 
You have the The Great One; The Emotional One; The Stoic One; The Hot One; The Controversial One; The Determined One. And more than one longshot.
 
On a day when the names on the leaderboard seemed to be thrown into a hat, jumbled around and picked at random to be placed from top to bottom, Thomas Bjorns name came out first.
 
The Dane shot a mouse-like 2-under 69 on a wild day in South East England. For the second straight day, only one man is in red figures. The Stoic One will enter the final round at 1-under-par 212.
 
I don't think all the expectations are on me tomorrow, said Bjorn. I think there are a couple of guys around me that people expect to win a major championship constantly.
 
Overnight leader Davis Love III had a 1-over 72 to fall to even par. Tiger Woods (69), Vijay Singh (69), Kenny Perry (70), Sergio Garcia (70) and PGA Tour rookie Ben Curtis (70) are at 1-over-par 214.
 
The leaderboard is very similar to that of the last time Royal St. George's hosted an Open. Ten years ago, the best players in the world ' Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Corey Pavin ' were all battling for the title.
 
There's going to be four or five guys that can win the golf tournament with just a few holes to go, said Love. It's going to be tight.
 
In all, 16 players are within five shots of Bjorn. Defending champion Ernie Els is in a group six back after a disappointing 72.
 
There's only one score under par, Els said. If I could go the way I want to play, I've still got a chance.
 
Englands Mark Roe shot 67 to finish at 1 over. But he and playing competitor Jesper Parnevik disqualified for signing incorrect scorecards. The two did not exchange cards on the first tee and, therefore, wrote down each others scores on their own scorecards.
 
And that was just a part of Saturdays excitement. Now, if Sunday can live up to its predecessor.
 
Of course, it all started with The Great One.
 
Following a trio of pars to start the day, Woods made a 15-foot putt for eagle at the par-5 fourth. Routine enough.
 
Eagle No. 2 was far more impressive.
 
Tigers second shot to the par-5 seventh rolled through the green and into the back bunker. With the ball a couple of feet from the back lip, Woods quickly lifted his sand-wedge up and then slapped it down into the soft sand. The ball popped out perfectly and took the desired route into the bottom of the cup.
 
Woods raised both hands and nearly dropped to his knees in response.
 
It's not a shot you try to hole, said Woods. That was a bonus.
 
He closed the front side by making a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth that went up and down one level, and broke at least five feet right-to-left. He held a two-stroke cushion at 2-under par.
 
The back nine, however, was far more frustrating and far less fruitful.
 
Woods had four bogeys and one birdie on the second nine. The birdie came at the par-5 14th, where his bid for a third eagle died on the edge of the hole.
 
For the record, Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes.
 
I've won eight a different way, so maybe I can win one this way, he said. It's still not a bad percentage, though.
 
The Emotional One had an experience similar to Woods' second eagle.
 
Garcia was up and down, and all around Royal St. Georges in Round 3. He started at 2 over, dropped to plus-4, made his way back to even par, and then bogeyed the last to finish at 1 over.
 
Yet through it all, it was a par that will be remembered most.
 
After driving his tee shot on the par-4 17th into an impossible position in the heather, it took Garcia two swipes just to advance his ball back to safety. The first time, his ball moved six inches ' and it took nearly two minutes to find it.
 
The thickest rough on the whole course, Garcia said of his position off the tee.
 
Faced with a 60-yard shot, he hit his fourth just on the front surface of the green, from where it rolled at length into the target area.
 
The 23-year-old Spaniard screamed in jubilation, eventually tossed his ball into the raucous crowd and raced to the next hole.
 
This is what we all practice for and it feels good to be up there, said Garcia, who has labored through a swing change this season. I have been working hard on my game and it seems like it is starting to pay off.
 
The Stoic One didnt experience such highs. But he didnt have any lows either.
 
Bjorn made one eagle, one birdie and one bogey on the day. Thursday, he had a double bogey and a quadruple bogey in shooting 73. But he has recovered with rounds of 70-69 to put himself in position to rewrite his greatest golfing moment.
 
Bjorns biggest triumph thus far ' he has seven career wins on the European Tour ' came at Woods expense. He prevailed while playing all 72 holes alongside the worlds No. 1 in the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic.
 
It's a nice feeling to know you can go head-to-head with the guy and do well. This is a major championship. This is different, Bjorn said.
 
Love has never had much success against Woods. But hell be paired with Bjorn on Sunday.
 
The 1997 PGA champion dropped three shots over his first 11 holes in the third round. The Determined Ones turnaround came at 14, which he eagled to get back to even par.
 
The Hot One and The Controversial One have been in quiet contention throughout the week.
 
Perry, who has won three of his last four starts, has been impressive in his first Open Championship since 1991. His opening 74 has been followed by back-to-back 70s.
 
Then there is Singh, who has been embroiled in controversy much of the year. He made disparaging remarks concerning Annika Sorenstams appearance at Colonial, and then withdrew from the tournament. He has also put a personal embargo on the media, unless he is leading the tournament is how he put it.
 
He did talk to the media, though very briefly, after his roller-coaster performance Saturday. He played holes 7-9 in 4 under, only to bogey Nos. 10-13. He finished with birdies on 15, 16 and 18.
 
Im in a good position, said the 1998 PGA champion and 2000 Masters winner.
 
As are so many others after Saturdays wildly exciting round which concluded, ironically enough, with The Stoic One in the lead.
 
I'm going to go out and enjoy myself tomorrow, Bjorn said. I promised myself the next time I got in contention in a major championship, I'm going to enjoy every second of it.
 
And hopefully it will last all the way.
 
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