They say you can't win a major championship on Friday, that you only can lose it. I know that's true. Of course, it's true.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Tiger Woods hits from a bunker on the second hole yesterday at Oakmont Country Club.
Click photo for larger image.
"It's so tough out there ..."
PG golf Writer Gerry Dulac wraps up Day Two developments at Oakmont.
So why can't I shake this feeling that Tiger Woods just might have won the 107th U.S. Open yesterday?
I'll tell you why, thanks for asking.
Woods did what none of the other top-10 players in the world were really able to do. He took Oakmont Country Club's best shot and was still standing, tall and proud and looking pretty, after providing the best theater that golf has to offer.
Think Ali vs. Frazier.
The game's greatest player vs. the toughest course.
Make it Ali by a split decision.
Woods' 4-over 74 might not look like much, but to him it was a thing of beauty, especially considering the hellish Oakmont conditions that beat up the other top players, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, beyond recognition. "I think I shot under par," Woods said, rather proudly. He is tied for a dull 13th, five shots behind leader Angel Cabrera, but take a hard look at the names ahead of him. I'll give you a minute to find a player from that group who will be able to stare him down on the weekend, a player with the belly to keep him from winning a 13th major championship.
I knew you couldn't do it.
That doesn't mean someone right behind Woods can't catch and pass him. Former Open winners Jim Furyk and Geoff Ogilvy are right there, just a stroke back, after shooting respectable 75s yesterday. Each has game, tremendous game. But, I'm sorry, it's just really hard not to like Woods' chances after what he was able to get done. His 74 seems especially sweet to me because of this: Players 2-10 in the world rankings -- Mickelson, Furyk, Scott, Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson, Vijay Singh, Ogilvy, Luke Donald and Retief Goosen -- shot a combined 62 over. Woods had to play in the afternoon, when the winds were stiffer and the greens quicker than in the morning, when Mickelson shot 77 and probably hopped a jet home to California, and Scott shot an embarrassing 82 and was last seen headed to ...
Hey, did anyone check the Hulton Bridge for jumpers last night?
OK, so it wasn't that bad, but a lot of great golfers were feeling mighty humbled. Mickelson put it best when he announced his afternoon plans: "Go watch the carnage on TV."
Give Woods credit for not adding to Lefty's sadistic entertainment pleasure.
Perhaps you'll say to me that 74 doesn't seem all that hot when Paul Casey did a 4-under 66 in the morning and Stephen Ames shot 69 in the afternoon. I'll tell you, with all due respect to those two, that it's a lot easier to shoot a red number after you shoot 77 and 73 the day before under tamer conditions and you don't have much to lose. It's easier still to do it when no one thinks you can win.
Woods wouldn't know that feeling, would he?
All he knows is enormous pressure.
And how to handle it.
"You've got to grind it away. You've got to be so patient," he said.
That 74 is the proof. "I felt like today's round could have gotten away a little bit," he added.
A little bit?
Woods' round wasn't defined by his two birdies and six bogeys as much as it was by some remarkable scrambling. He saved par on No. 10, his first hole, with a great chip to 3 feet after his approach shot had run off the green. He kept the damage on No. 4 to a bogey after he somehow hit his drive into the Church Pews. But the topper was No. 2. Another bogey, of all things, kept him very much alive for the championship. "I could have easily made a higher number than I did," Woods said.
We're talking serious carnage.
Really, really hideous carnage.
You're going to love Woods' description of how he played that par 4.
"I tugged my tee shot left. The rough snagged it coming out. The hay snagged it again. I hit a pretty good bunker shot, got below the hole and made the putt [from 6 feet], one of the very few putts where I could be aggressive ...
"That was not a fun hole."
Nothing about this day was fun for Woods.
His fun will come tomorrow if he wins his third Open title, joining the rather elite company of men named Anderson, Jones, Hogan, Nicklaus and Irwin.
Or should I say when he wins?
Ron Cook can be reached at email@example.com .