Notes McDowell Suffers Meltdown at the 18th


SAN FRANCISCO -- Graeme McDowell got the best and worst of Harding Park. For 17 holes in the third round, he had no bogeys on his card and had shot himself into contention. He was 6 under for the day, easily the best score Saturday, until he got to the 18th hole.
His tee shot caught the trees, and he failed to back to the fairway with his second. Then he pulled his shot into more trees and into the hazard. After taking his penalty drop, he went just off the green, chipped to 30 inches and missed the putt to take a quadruple-bogey 8.
``Yeah, 18 kind of kicked me in the butt a little bit,'' McDowell said. ``I'm feeling pretty bad right now, but there's obviously tomorrow.''
The 18th hole has gotten most of the attention all week, with few kind words. The tee shot must carry Lake Merced, and the landing area is blocked by cypress trees, with bunkers beyond the fairway.
``I wouldn't say it's unfair, but I would say it's out of character with the rest of the golf course,'' McDowell said. ``The rest of the golf course is straightforward. It's all laid out in front of you. But 18 is just a brutal hole.''
Colin Montgomerie noticed the plight of his fellow European.
``You've got to think your way around that hole,'' he said. ``It's a card-wrecker.''
The players are among the best in the world, and the $7.5 million purse at the American Express Championship signals a marquee tournament. But there signs of municipal golf Saturday at the public course on the western fringe of San Francisco.
For one thing, the rounds lasted about five hours.
Players were waiting in the first fairway, and the pace slowed to that of the weekend regulars at the par-3 third hole when two groups wound up on the tee box.
Tiger Woods stretched and twisted to stay limber as he chatted with Sean O'Hair. Before long, they were joined by Fred Funk, Mark Calcavecchia and Jim Furyk, and the final threesome was on the second green.
Why the backup?
``The wind,'' Woods said as he waited.
When he finally got a chance to hit, Woods stuck his approach to 18 feet for his first birdie. Angel Cabrera went long and left, then promptly chipped in for birdie.
San Francisco is a city that embraces diversity, so the spiked hair and loud fashions worn by several of the European contingent was a pleaser for the weekend gallery.
Ian Poulter's high hair peeking out of his white visor elicited some chuckles among fans.
``I like him. He dresses funny,'' said Carl Uyeda, of San Jose, as he watched Poulter pound his opening drive off the first tee.
Poulter's head cover celebrated his different look -- a small tuft of white faux hair with a miniature version of his visor resting atop it.
Colin Montgomerie's solid play for the second consecutive day won him a few more stateside fans, but there remained a few who took the opportunity to rib him about his rare miscues.
He took exception to one spectator who blurted out ``Noonan'' as he missed a birdie chance -- a popular reference from the movie ``Caddyshack.''
Still, the Scot who once was routinely heckled in these parts was hardly bothered.
``That's just part of the game,'' Montgomerie said. ``If this was in Scotland, it might be different.''
Told that Harding Park was used to park cars during the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic Club across from Lake Merced, John Daly had a solution. ``They need to park cars at Olympic Club and play the U.S. Open here,'' he said. Daly tied for 53rd at Olympic. ... Phil Mickelson was 6 over after his first six holes, shooting 41 on the back nine. He rallied with four birdies on the front nine for a 73. ... Tom Lehman had a hole-in-one on the 11th hole, the second ace this week at Harding Park. ... The best round of the day belonged to Fred Couples, who had a 66 despite taking a double bogey on the sixth hole.
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