O'Meara wins friendly duel with Woods Florida neighbors blaze to 1-2 finish in Pebble Beach

O'Meara takes title for 5th time

Woods' closing 64 gets tie for 2nd with Duval

February 03, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- It may be Tiger Woods' world, but it's Mark O'Meara's tournament.

With the Pacific Ocean on his left and an adoring grandstand on his right, Woods came up a stroke short in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am yesterday. O'Meara won for a record fifth time, and in a touchy-feely, we're-such-good-friends celebrity event, the unassuming veteran and the dynasty-to-be really are buddies.

Five years ago, after a junior tournament in Florida, Woods' father, Earl, phoned O'Meara and asked whether they could get in 18 holes together. O'Meara was gracious to the prodigy, who was then 16, and when Woods looked last year for a place to spend his $60 million worth of endorsements in seclusion, he chose an estate a few gates down from O'Meara's in Orlando, Fla.

"I love Mark to death," Woods said. "When we're home, I see him pretty much every day."

They fish together. They go to Orlando Magic games together. They'll probably be a team in the Ryder Cup together, and the combination of a spectacular 21-year-old and a steady veteran will be tough to top.

"We play a lot of golf at home together," O'Meara said. "There's always a little money involved. I tell him, 'You may hit it 50 yards past me, but I'll find a way to win.' When he pumps his fist, I tell him, 'You've got to be kidding. Do you think you're the first guy ever to do that fist deal? I'm going to bury you.'

"Tiger's always saying, 'I can't wait to go head-to-head with you.' "

They didn't go head-to-head, but rather roar-to-roar.

O'Meara's fourth straight 67 gave him a tournament-record, 20-under total. He went off in the last group with third-round leader David Duval (71), who finished at 19-under with Woods. In the next-to-last group, Woods started and finished strong, with a 64 that was nearly as brilliant as the third-round 63 that got him back into the tournament.

Woods birdied five of the first eight holes to get within two strokes of O'Meara and Duval. When Woods bogeyed No. 13 -- his first hole over par since Friday -- he didn't despair.

"I needed to make a run early, just to get to the point where I could see the leaders," Woods said. "After 13, I knew I needed to make another run soon."

His flair for the dramatic is already the stuff of legend, which grew during a weekend in which Woods was 17-under on one of the world's landmark courses. Whether they were playing under preferred lie rules, something Woods calls "lift, clean and cheat," it was a phenomenal two-day charge.

Davis Love III, Payne Stewart and Tom Lehman, three of the biggest names on the PGA Tour, have been the victims in Woods' three wins. The previous stop on the tour was at Phoenix, and though U.S. Open champion Steve Jones won by 11 strokes, as much was written about an ace by Woods at the mosh pit at No. 16.

Still behind by two heading into the last three holes yesterday, Woods hit an immense 3-wood off the tee at No. 16, a par-4. He followed with a sand wedge to within four feet and got his birdie, but a few minutes later O'Meara chipped in for a birdie from 15 feet with a 7-iron.

At the par-3 17th, Woods birdied with a 7-iron and a four-foot putt. No problem for O'Meara. He birdied with a 6-iron and a 12-foot putt, so the two-stroke spread carried over to No. 18.

"You've got to understand, that motivates me," O'Meara said. "If I can't deal with the pressure, I need to do something else."

Woods made an inspired run at eagle and a playoff. He cracked a 3-wood 260 yards to get on the daunting par-5 in two, but his 35-foot putt slid right early.

O'Meara had a tap-in par to continue his dominance of this event, which he also won in 1985, '89, '90 and '92.

Jack Nicklaus put his stamp on the Masters. Tom Watson will be linked forever with the British Open. O'Meara has never won a major -- he didn't even make the cut when the U.S. Open was held here in 1992 -- but who's to say he can't make a run at Sam Snead's record for wins in an event? Snead won the Greensboro Open eight times.

"I wish I could put my finger on why I play well on the Monterey Peninsula," said O'Meara, who was born in North Carolina but moved to California when he was 13. "When I was 16 or 17, I played the California State Amateur. Going on the 17-Mile Drive, seeing Pebble Beach for the first time was beyond belief. I still have that feeling."

Woods is off to Thailand, the homeland of his mother, to be feted by the government and play a tournament there.

O'Meara? He's awaiting delivery of the Porsche his wife ordered for his 40th birthday last month. His 13 tour victories include events sponsored by Oldsmobile, Honda and Mercedes, and he'll go for the automakers' grand slam at the Buick Invitational later this week.

Yesterday's prize was $342,000 and a 60-piece set of crystal that he doesn't know what to do with, since he's got several like it already in storage.

He also earned a few digs at his practice partner back in Orlando.

Top finishers

Player .. .. .. ..4th-Tot .. .. .. .. Par

Mark O'Meara .. ...67-268 .. .. .. ...-20

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.