Tiger Close to Closing the Open
Conjuring up images of his runaway victory in the 1997 Masters Tournament, Woods is once again lapping the field in a major championship. At -8, Tiger is the only player currently under par. His nearest competitor is Ernie Els, who's at 2-over-par.
Tiger's 10-shot lead after 54 holes is a U.S. Open record. The previous margin was seven, set by James Barnes in 1921. That's not the only record Woods set on Saturday. His six-stroke lead through 36 holes is also a new record; breaking the five-stroke margin set by Willie Anderson in 1903, and tied by Mike Souchak in 1960.
Tiger's record-breaking Saturday began at 4:30am PT. After stepping off the course 10 hours prior, Tiger was forced to complete his second round beginning at 6:30am. Woods did so by posting one birdie and two bogeys over his final six holes. Ironically, the two bogeys came on the par-5 14th and par-5 18th. Still Woods' 134 total tied him with Jack Nicklaus, T.C. Chen and Lee Janzen for yet another Open record. Nicklaus' and Janzen's two-day scores both came at Baltusrol in 1980 and 1993, respectively. Chen's came in the 1985 Open at Oakland Hills.
'Well, I guess if you go on to lose, you look like an idiot,' Woods said after completing his second round. 'I'm going to play hard and do the same things I've been doing, which is hit the fairways. If I have a good situation, I'll go ahead and attack. If not, I'll dump it on the side of the green and make my par.'
Seven hours after finishing his second round, a fully rested and stomach-filled Woods once again made his way to the course. However, this time the course was waiting. Strong winds were wreaking havoc on the 61 others already out on the course. Tiger had successfully avoided such conditions through two rounds, but there was no such luck in Round 3. Of course, Tiger doesn't need much luck.
Paired with Thomas Bjorn, Woods embarked on his third round with a six-shot cushion at 8-under-par. Tiger moved to nine-under after sinking a remarkable 30-foot birdie putt on the 2nd, but trouble - and hope for the rest of the field - lurked on the par-4 3rd. Tiger's approach shot came up short and right of the green. It landed outside of a bunker, yet buried deep down in the nightmarish Open rough. Woods nearly whiffed his next shot, and then managed to barely advance his fourth. His fifth finally made the green. Two putts later, Tiger had carded a triple-bogey-7.
Woods was now at six-under, yet in the difficult conditions, no one was able to make a run at him. His playing companion, Bjorn, bogeyed two of his first three holes to remain six shots off the lead. In fact, after making a par on the 4th, Woods reached the par-3 5th as the only man under par. It would stay that way for the remainder of the day.
On the par-5 6th, Tiger escaped trouble by playing a phenomenal shot from the roughage encompassing a fairway bunker. The resultant birdie lifted him back to seven-under. Then came the short par-3 7th. The wind had been howling throughout the third round, causing near-comical miscues from the world's best players. But as Tiger reached the tee, the conditions calmed and watched as he struck an iron pin high to eight feet. Another birdie ensued, and Woods was level for the day at 8-under-par.
The wind soon returned, and Woods sandwiched a birdie at the par-4 9th between two bogeys at the 8th and 10th, with a final birdie coming at the 14th. In all, Tiger posted five birdies, two bogeys and one triple for an even-par 71. Woods finished the round where he stared, at eight-under. But though his position didn't change, his lead did.
'I knew if I shot even par or somewhere close to that, I'd probably pick up a shot or two, just because the conditions were so severe out there,' Woods said following his third round. 'Going into tomorrow, if I can just go out there and hit a lot of good solid shots, especially off the tees, I feel like if I drive the ball in a lot of fairways tomorrow, I have a pretty good chance, no matter what (Els) shoots.'
Only one player managed to break par in Saturday's third round. That was Els, who posted an early 3-under-par 69 to finish 54 holes at 2-over-par. Ernie's round included a holed wedge shot from 99 yards for an eagle-2 at the 4th. Els had started the day in a tie for 36th, but jumped into a tie for 8th upon the completion of his round. By the end of the day, he was in second place alone.
The par-71 Pebble Beach course played at a 77.124 scoring average in the third round. Sixteen players shot 80 or higher, including Bjorn. The Dane began the day tied for second at 2-under-par, but carded one birdie, eight bogeys and two double-bogeys for an 11-over-par 82. He's now tied for 22nd.
Jimenez did break 80, but he didn't fare much better. Like Bjorn, the Spaniard started his third round tied for second at two-under. But Jimenez bogeyed the first and never recovered. He posted five bogeys and no birdies for a round of 76. He's still tied for third, but is now 11 shots off the lead.
With a ten shot lead over his closest competition, Woods is a near-mortal lock to win his first U.S. Open. In his '97 Masters romp, Woods led by nine shots through 54 holes, yet still shot 69 on Sunday to increase his winning margin to 12.
In terms of Tiger, the only suspense left is to see how many records he can match or break. But there is still the matter of a $475,000 second-place check. In the event within the event, there are ten players within four shots of one another.
NEWS, NOTES AND NUMBERS
*Woods and Els will tee off at 12:40pm PT.
*The last player to win the U.S. Open wire-to-wire was Tony Jacklin in 1970.
*The record for largest winning margin in an Open is 11 strokes, set by Willie Smith in 1899.
*The record aggregate 72-hole total at an Open is 272, set by Jack Nicklaus (1980) and Lee Janzen (1993).
*The lowest 72-hole score in relation to par is eight under.
*The best comeback in a final Open round is seven strokes, set by Arnold Palmer in 1960.
*Gil Morgan holds the record for most strokes under par at any point in an Open, 12 in the third round in 1992 at Pebble Beach.
*Kirk Triplett began the third round at 1-under-par, but shot a third-round 84, including a nine on the par-5 18th to finish at 12-over-par, tied for 43rd.
*Triplett is tied with Hal Sutton, who played his first five holes in the third round at 6-over-par. Sutton shot a 12-over-par 83.
*Jim Furyk began his day with a birdie on the 1st, but then bogeyed the 2nd, tripled the 3rd and after a par at the 4th, began a stretch of eight straight bogeys at the 5th. Furyk shot 13-over-par 84 for the day.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”