Woods' last round is grand: 6-under

Day after 10-over disaster, he finishes tied for 28th

Evans just misses playoff

Notebook

British Open

July 22, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

GULLANE, Scotland - One thing you can say about Tiger Woods: The world's best player doesn't mail it in.

One day after shooting his worst round as a professional - a 10-over-par 81 - in the third round of the 131st British Open at Muirfield, Woods tied for the best score of the final round. But his 6-under 65 yesterday only brought Woods back to even par for the tournament and left him tied for 28th.

It was a face-saving finish to a disappointing week for Woods, whose chances for a third straight major championship this year to keep his hopes alive for a Grand Slam were drenched by the rain on Saturday.

It turned out to be the third-lowest finish by Woods in a major as a pro, with only two worse being a pair of 29th-place ties in the 1997 and 2001 PGA championships.

"I would have liked to be in contention after shooting a 65 with a chance to win it," said Woods, who went out early in the morning. "That would have been even better. But that's the way it goes."

Asked about missing out on the Grand Slam, Woods repeated what he has often said.

"I have already accomplished it," Woods said, referring to his four straight victories in majors, the U.S. and British Opens and PGA coming in 2000 and the last at the 2001 Masters. "Only difference is that it would have been done a different way."

Woods said he is not yet thinking about the possibility of winning three majors in the same year for the second time when he tees off next month in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine outside Minneapolis.

In fact, he sounded as if he seemed satisfied already with his victories in the Masters and U.S. Open.

"Two [major titles] was a great year," Woods said. "I think sometimes the media and everybody tend to lose perspective on how difficult it is to win a major championship. Anytime you can win one major in a year, it is going to be a successful year."

In retrospect, yesterday's round was the result of Woods making the putts he failed to convert the first two days. After a bogey on the par-4 third hole put Woods at 7-over for the tournament, he made five birdies and an eagle on the next 12 holes.

"If I would have shot this under yesterday's conditions, I would have liked my chances," Woods said with a smile. "I think for me it was important to go out there and play like I did for the first two days, just hit the ball well, think well and putt well. Only difference today is the putts went in vs. the first two days when they weren't falling."

Evans' finish memorable

The last two holes Gary Evans played yesterday were not just the most memorable of his career, but they also likely will go down in the lore of the Open. In the end, the journeyman English pro wasn't quite this year's Jean Van de Velde, but he wasn't Paul Lawrie either.

With a one-stroke lead over Ernie Els and Shigeki Maruyama, who were both several holes behind him, Evans was at 6-under for the tournament and 7-under for the round. He hit a perfect drive on the par-5 17th, but the nerves finally got to him.

He hit a 4-wood well left of the fairway, in the waist-high hay. A search party of some 50 people tried to find his ball and couldn't. Evans had to replay his shot, and this time put his approach just short of the green. He then saved par from 35 feet.

"When I walked to the green, the first thing I said [to his caddie] was, `I promise you I'm going to hole this,' " Evans said later. "A friend of mine, it's actually my bank manager's wife, said to me something like, `Pick a trigger line and focus.' I know that means absolutely nonsense."

When the putt went in, Evans did his best imitation of Woods' fist pump, high-fived playing partner Scott Verplank and pointed into the BBC camera, saying, "This one's for you, mum!"

The adventure wasn't over for Evans, a former two-time British Amateur champion whose pro career has been slowed by injuries. He hit his drive on the par-4 18th into the right rough, then flew his second shot deep in the grandstand left of the green. He took a drop, but missed a 10-footer for par.

"It was seriously, seriously hard the last two holes," said Evans, 33, who is ranked 193rd in the world. "It was like nothing I've ever experienced.

"I was fine up to it. But as soon as I lost the ball, all of a sudden, a dark cloud descended and I thought, `Oh God, please not now.' "

He would not follow in Van de Velde's missteps at Carnoustie, where the Frenchman's triple bogey on the last hole in 1999 helped erase a three-shot lead. Nor would Evans follow Lawrie, who took advantage of the Open's biggest blunder to win in a playoff that year.

"At the time [Lawrie] won, he was just another player like me," said Evans, who has played the European Tour since 1991 without much success. "It's every kid's dream to walk up the last and actually have a chance to win."

Evans wasn't the only player to bogey the last hole and miss out on a playoff by one stroke. Padraig Harrington of Ireland did it while shooting a final-round 67. It didn't seem to matter to Evans, who was greeted like a champion when he walked up the 18th fairway.

"I'll never get a bigger buzz than that," he said. "Bungee jumps, you can keep it; jumping out of airplanes, you can keep it. When you have 15,000 or 20,000 people clapping their hands for you, it's just frightening. It gives you such a feeling of worth."

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