Tiger makes the cut
A day-long drama over whether or not Tiger Woods could make the cut at the PGA Championship ended in spectacular fashion on Friday with a last-hole birdie sending the superstar into the weekend.
The Masters and British Open champion risked missing the cut to attempt a birdie-eagle finish on Baltusrol Golf Club’s only par-five holes, taking a bogey at the gargantuan 650-yard 17th before a do-or-bye tap-in birdie at the 18th.
“I was just trying to get back into the tournament,” Woods said. “If I would have birdied 17 like I was supposed to and maybe eagled 18, I would have been one-over, which would have been great.”
Instead, Woods fired a one-under par 69 to stand on four-over par 144 after 36 holes at the year’s final major tournament, making the cut on the number to retain his status of never missing a major cut as a professional.
“I got through somehow,” Woods said. “I just grinded it out all day.”
Woods stood 12 strokes behind leader Phil Mickelson, knowing his dream of an 11th career major crown and third major title of the year is unrealistic.
“I’ve got to play two great rounds,” Woods said.
“The way Phil is playing, it’s going to be hard for anyone to catch up. Maybe I can get under par for the tournament tomorrow and have a great round on Sunday.”
World number one Woods, helped by a long fairway roll and strong tailwind, blasted an epic 296-yard three-wood second-shot at the mammoth 17th, landing left of the green in rough by inches and bouncing into the far edge of a bunker.
So much for the question of whether anyone could get that far in two shots. Woods wasn’t even trying his hardest when he conquered the “Beast of Baltusrol”.
“It wasn’t a big three-wood. That’s the thing,” Woods said. “It was blowing downwind off the left a little bit. It was just a smooth three-wood. It wasn’t a big ripper. It wasn’t a big one. I just had to make sure I got it up in the air. Any kind of bullet, obviously I can’t carry the front with a low ball.”
Woods pitched into the rough and popped a fourth shot past the hole, leaving himself a testy 10-footer for par. The putt broke left at the last moment and lipped out of the cup, bringing a bogey that left Woods beyond the cut line.
“I had a perfect drive, then hit a wonderful three-wood up in the air,” Woods said. “A shot like that where it kicks up against the face, I couldn’t do anything. Hit a decent pitch and a wonderful putt. Just didn’t go in.”
Woods reached the 18th needing a birdie to advance. He found the fairway and the back of the green, curled a 15-foot eagle putt just short and dropped in a birdie to join 78 others in round three at the $6,5-million event.
“Now you have to hit two good golf shots and I did,” Woods said. “That’s what I’m really proud of.”
Woods (29) had not missed a cut since the 1997 Canadian Open until last May at the Byron Nelson. He last failed to play the weekend at a major as a 20-year-old amateur at the 1996 Masters.
Woods opened with a 75, his worst over-par first round in a major and worst 18 holes since a last-round 76 at the 2004 United States Open.
The sun rose at the 7 392-yard layout with Woods eight strokes behind six co-leaders, but by the time Woods teed off he was 13 strokes behind Mickelson. He enters Saturday 12 strokes back.
“If Phil goes ahead and shoots two good rounds on the weekend in the mid-60s, he will probably win it,” Woods said. “Hopefully under easier, softer conditions I can post a low one and at least get myself some type of hope.”
Woods followed an opening birdie with three consecutive bogeys.
A birdie at the sixth and bogey at the eighth left him three shy of the cut at the turn.
But Woods responded to the pressure in trademark form with birdies at 11 and 12, a clutch 10-foot par putt at the 14th and a birdie at the 15th to put himself on the cut line.
An odd day for Woods included being halted for several minutes at the fourth green after a large limb broke loose from an oak tee and injured two freelance television production employees and a 60-year-old spectator.
Woods arrived to the course amid accusations that his caddie, Steve Williams, had stepped upon his ball at the 18th hole during the first round in an incident where Woods asked for and was denied imbedded ball relief.
“He walks three steps closer to actually point out the golf ball, so he wasn’t even near it,” Woods said.
Kerry Haigh, PGA of America MD of tournaments, supported the decision made at the time that the ball had not been stepped upon by anyone, having apparently deflected off a tree limb and sunk into wet earth near water.
“We reviewed videotape and determined there was no evidence of any person stepping on the ball,” Haigh said.—Sapa-AFP