Race was close - for second

Tied Els, Jimenez take solace, 15 strokes back


June 19, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - There was an interesting tournament played yesterday at the Pebble Beach Golf Links, one that went down to the final hole and wound up with two players tied, and another one shot behind.

Call it the race for second-place at the 100th U.S. Open.

Two-time Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain wound up sharing what amounted to a B-Flight title.

"Finishing second is good," Els said with a laugh. "I'm kind of embarrassed finishing 15 shots behind the guy, you know. I said to Tiger that he better check his card, otherwise me and Jimenez have to have a playoff, so good thing he did that."

There were no irregularities on the scorecard of Open champion Tiger Woods, and he signed it properly as well. It ended four days of trying to figure out what tournament Woods was playing, and what the rest of the field was playing.

For Els, who has never quite fulfilled the promise that came when he won his second U.S. Open title three years ago at Congressional, it was marked improvement over the past two years. Els had missed the cut last year at Pinehurst and had finished tied for 49th at Olympic in 1998.

"I think I'm pretty close," said Els, 30. "My whole game is not quite there. And I played a pretty good week. I still feel that I threw away a lot of shots on and around the greens. It seems like I hit the ball well this week, but I couldn't quite finish it. I need to work on my game quite a lot, just to get close to him [Woods] nowadays."

Said John Huston, who finished fourth at 4-over-par 288 after a 1-under 70 yesterday, "I feel like I played pretty well. It doesn't look well compared to what Tiger is doing, but neither does anybody else. This is the best finish I've had in an Open, so hopefully I'm getting better as I'm getting older."

No slam for Singh

One again, there won't be a Grand Slam this year in golf. While he recovered from a horrific third-round 80 with a 3-under-par 68 yesterday, reigning Masters champion Vijay Singh finished tied for eighth at 7-over-par 291.

"I wanted to play well," said Singh. "Obviously, my goal was to win. I guess that didn't materialize. I'm very, very disappointed. I'm a lot more disappointed than I ever was."

It marked Singh's second straight Top 10 finish in an Open, following a tie for third last year.

On fire on front nine

Woods wasn't the only player to tie or break records here yesterday. Tour journeyman Richard Zokol shot 30 on the front nine, tying the lowest nine-hole score in the four Opens played here.

Zokol tied former Maryland star George Burns, who did it in the second round in 1982, and Andy Dillard, who started out with six straight birdies in the opening round for a front-nine 30 in 1992.

It didn't help Zokol, who shot 39 on the back for a 2-under 69. Zokol finished tied for 32nd at 13-over 297.

Liquid assets

There were a number of boats out on the Pacific Ocean yesterday, several of them blaring their horns as Woods went by. Nick Fisher of Oxnard, Calif., didn't bother buying a ticket. He merely parked his kayak on the beach by the 18th hole and climbed up a cliff for a view of the green.

"I'm used to watching here in the winter [during the Pebble Beach AT&T]," he said. "This is great. It may be 20 years before there's another U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, so I wanted to come out. In my kayak I can get a good view of No. 7 and No. 17. We float out there hoping somebody will hit a big hook."

Woods' records at the Open

Records set or tied by Tiger Woods at the 100th U.S. Open:

Margin: His 15-stroke victory is the largest margin for an Open champion, breaking the record of 11 set by Willie Smith at Baltimore Country Club in 1899. It also breaks the records for a major; the previous marks were 13 by Old Tom Morris at the 1862 British Open and Woods' modern record of 12 set at the 1997 Masters.

Relation to par: His 212-under is the best score in relation to par over 72 holes in an Open, breaking the previous of 8-under shared by Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus , Hale Irwin and Mike Donald. Woods becomes the second player in Open history to reach double digits under par during a tournament - Gil Morgan was the first here at the 1992 Open - and the first to finish an Open at least 10-under.

Overall score: His 272 ties the lowest score in an Open for 72 holes, set by Jack Nicklaus in 1980 at Baltusrol and tied by Lee Janzen in 1993 at Baltusrol.

36-hole score: His lead of six strokes was the largest in an Open, breaking a record set in 1923.

54-hole score: His lead of 10 strokes was the largest in an Open, breaking the record of James Barnes at Columbia Country Club in 1921 and tying the major championship record of Henry Cotton at the 1934 British Open.

National championship margin: His margin of victory was the biggest in a national championship, breaking the record of 14 set by Babe Zaharias in 1949 at the U.S. Women's Open at Prince George's Golf and Country Club.

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