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Major-less Woods Moves On

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. -- For the first time since August 1999, Tiger Woods is not the current holder of a major championship trophy.
Woods completed another disappointing major with a 2-over 72 Sunday. He finished the 103rd U.S. Open at 3-over-par 283.
Since winning the 2002 U.S. Open, Woods has tied for 28th in the British Open, finished second in the PGA Championship, tied for 15th at the Masters, and tied for 20th this week.
Tigers primary problem at Olympia Fields was on the greens. He averaged 31.3 putts per round; tied for 64th of the 68 players who made the cut.
I had a tough time getting the speed right this week, he explained. It was frustrating in general this week because I never got anything going.
This is his worst finish as a professional in this event. After winning three of his first four starts in 2003, Tiger has failed to win in his last five, recording only one top-10 in the latter stretch.
With each major, particular the Opens, U.S. fans are generally introduced to a player with whom theyre unfamiliar.
Stephen Leaney was such a man in this week. The 34-year-old Australian played in the final twosome Sunday. Starting the final round trailing Jim Furyk by three strokes, he shot 2-over 72 to claim second place.
Leaney, though a stranger to many casual observers, is no stranger to success. He has three European Tour victories, and four more on the Australasian Tour. Hes a regular on the European circuit, and finished runner-up to Ernie Els in this years Johnnie Walker Classic.
He has five times tried to earn his PGA Tour card through Q-School, and five times failed. No failure was more difficult than a year ago when he birdied his final hole, but missed by one shot.
I was really devastated last year, he said. Its always been a dream of mine to come here.'
And now he has arrived. Thanks to his quarterfinal run in this years WGC-Match Play Championship, where he lost to Woods, and his runner-up finish this week, Leaney has earned enough money to secure his tour playing privilege for next season. And he is now a temporary member this year.
'I'm happy with the status that I will have,' he said. 'I don't have to go through Q-School again. It's nice that I was able to pull through.'
Its been a long and strange road to here. Ten years ago, a blood clot in his arm made it necessary for doctors to remove two of his ribs to alleviate the problem. It took him 18 months to fully recover.
Now, if only he could find a steady caddie. Leaney had been working the last three weeks with Justin Hoyle. But Hoyle, who suffers from a heart condition, had to pull out after the first round. Matthew Goggins caddie, who just happened to be on the grounds, replaced him.
I dont rely on guys that much to pick me up or spur me on, I just want them to do a certain job, he said. Its nice to have an Australian to talk to, because Im comfortable with him on the bag.
And his name?
Al, I dont know, Im sorry, Leaney said.
It wasnt the destination Tom Watson wanted, but it was one heck of a ride. After opening in 65 to share the first-round lead, Watson slipped steadily over the final three days.
His final three scores of 72-75-72 left the 1982 U.S. Open champion tied for 28th at 4-over-par 284.
Still, it was more than he or his caddie, Bruce Edwards, could have asked for. Support swelled for Edwards, who suffers from ALS, throughout the week, culminating in a standing ovation as the partners of 30 years walked to the 72nd green.
Its been a special week, to say the least, Watson said.
Said Edwards: Ive been really lucky in my career and Im not going to let something like this get me down. Im going to carry on.
I think what he did in the first round, there was a reason for that, Edwards added. The bottom line is to get the word out about ALS.
If someone said to me we can do this all over again, youre going to get ALS down the road, would you do it? Id say, you bet, every time. Ive been really lucky.
United States Golf Association officials will have to take eraser to record book after this years U.S. Open.
Jim Furyk set a tournament record for lowest 36- and 54-hole scores, and tied the 72-hole record.
He and Vijay Singh established the midway mark with a 133 total. Furyks 10-under-par 200 was a 54-hole record in both relation to par and aggregate. His 272 finish tied Jack Nicklaus (1980, Baltusrol), Lee Janzen (1993, Baltusrol) and Woods (2000, Pebble Beach).
Singh also tied the marks for lowest nine-hole score (29) and lowest 18-hole score (63) in the second round. Friday was the lowest Round 2 scoring in Open history, with a 71.9 field scoring average. The 143 cutline was also the lowest in the 103 years of this event.
Prior to this year, the record for scores in the 60s for the entire championship was 76, at Baltusrol in 1993. Olympia Fields produced 77 rounds in the 60s through three days, and 83 by tournaments end.
Thanks in part to an eagle at the par-5 sixth Sunday, Trip Kuehne was able to take gold medal honors as low amateur in this years U.S. Open.
The Texan, who turns 31 Friday, shot rounds of 74-67-76-73 to finish at 10-over-par 290. He was a single shot lower than the only other amateur to make the cut, Ricky Barnes.
Kuehne is presently an equity salesman for Legg Mason. He is most famous for finishing runner-up to Tiger Woods in the 1994 U.S. Amateur Championship, an event Barnes won a year ago.
I was second low amateur in the (U.S.) Open in 96. Lost to Tiger in the 94 finals of the Amateur. I was medallist in the Public Links. Ive always kind of been right there, knocking on the door, but Ive never finished first in a USGA event, Kuehne said.
Granted, its not first in the tournament, but low amateur, I get a gold medal and I now have a gold medal to match my brother and sister and nobody will ever be able to take that away from me.
Keuhnes brother, Hank, won the 1998 U.S. Amateur, while his sister, Kelli, won the 1995 and 96 U.S. Womens Amateur.
Kuehne tied for 57th. Barnes, who finished as low amateur in this years Masters Tournament, shot 71-71-79-70 to tie for 59th.
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