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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    Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

    By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

    After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

    The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

    The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

    Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

    “I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

    In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

    “It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

    The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

    Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

    “It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

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    PGA Tour Latinoamérica moving season finale to Doral

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

    The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

    “We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

    The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

    “We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

    The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

    The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

    A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

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    Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

    Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

    Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

    Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

    In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

    “My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

    In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

    Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.

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    Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 12:38 pm

    A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.

    Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."

    As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:

    "The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."

    "Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."

    Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners. 

    That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.