Woods nearly cuts out of PGA

Birdie putt on 18th hole keeps him in tournament

Mickelson leads by three

PGA Championship

August 13, 2005|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - Tiger Woods has found a way to overshadow Phil Mickelson for most of their careers, typically by winning major championships or making funnier TV commercials.

Yesterday, Woods managed to steal some of the spotlight that came with Mickelson being the second-round leader of the 87th PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club. Woods did it in a most unusual way.

He nearly missed the cut.

Hours after Mickelson finished an impressive round of 5-under-par 65 that helped him move into sole possession of the lead, Woods chased the projected cut line as if he were trying to win the tournament.

Seemingly on his way to missing his first cut in a major since turning pro in 1996, Woods recovered from a potentially damaging bogey on the par-5 17th hole with a birdie on the par-5 18th to barely make the cut at 4-over-par 144.

"I didn't know what the number was, to be honest with you, until 18," said Woods, who followed a 5-over-par 75 in the opening round with a 1-under-par 69 yesterday. "Stevie [Williams, his caddie] told me I needed to make birdie on the last hole and it was, `All right, I can do that.' "

At 8-under-par 132, Mickelson leads Jerry Kelly by three strokes. Former PGA champion Davis Love III, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa and Lee Westwood of England are four strokes behind.

Five others - defending PGA champion Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby of Australia, Jesper Parnevik of Sweden, Greg Owen of England and Shingo Katayama of Japan - are five strokes back.

While some of his fans here might be counting down to Mickelson's second major championship, the 35-year-old left-hander isn't counting on anything.

Nor is he planning on changing his approach just because his name is on top of the leader board.

"I don't think that the way I'll plan on playing the golf course is any different being ahead as it would be being behind," said Mickelson, who had shared the opening-round lead Thursday with five others. "I think you have to take what the course gives you."

The Lower Course gave Mickelson seven birdies and an eagle, but it also took two bogeys and a double bogey yesterday. Mickelson, who started his round on No. 10, had an interesting stretch of four holes when he bogeyed the par-3 16th, birdied the par-5 17th, eagled the par-5 18th and double-bogeyed the par-4 opening hole.

It was the kind of round Mickelson used to have often, before going to a more conservative approach with a controlled cut shot off the tee that enabled him to win his first major championship at last year's Masters. Mickelson went back to a more aggressive game this year and hasn't been in serious contention at the majors.

Yesterday, he was able to recover quickly from his mistakes, especially the double bogey at No. 1.

"I think that's probably the thing that I was most proud of about today's round," said Mickelson, who was able to follow his double bogey with birdies on the par-4 third and fifth holes. "Everybody is going to make mistakes, but sometimes it's hard to forget about it and let it go. I was able to let go of some of the bad shots ... and move on."

It took awhile for Woods to do the same thing. After making a birdie on the opening hole, Woods appeared to have shot his way out of the tournament with a string of three straight bogeys that left him at 7-over par.

A birdie on the par-4 sixth put Woods at 6-over, but he three-putted for the second time in the round and made bogey on the par-4 eighth to fall back to 7-over. He was still there as he headed to the 11th tee.

"I got to 7 [over] early, so I said just stay patient and try and make four or five birdies on the back nine and it can be done," Woods said. "I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish by making three birdies before I got to 17 and then I had to birdie 18."

Woods had to birdie the 18th because he bogeyed the 650-yard 17th hole - the longest hole in the history of major championship golf - after going for the green on his second shot. Using a 3-wood from 269 yards out, Woods watched his ball hit a grassy bank left of the green and ricochet into a bunker.

As he walked up to the ball, which was nearly flush against the back lip, Woods put a towel to his face and uttered an audible profanity. He was able to roll the ball out of the bunker, chipped 12 feet past the cup and lipped out a par putt.

Woods then narrowly missed a 15-foot putt for eagle on the 554-yard closing hole, tapping in for birdie and a chance to play on the weekend.

"I grinded my butt off today," Woods said. "I didn't get anything, either I messed up by three-putting a couple of times. I didn't get any momentum going. That was frustrating. It's one of those things where you've got to stay patient, stay in the moment and keep grinding. You never know what can happen."

With a dozen shots to make up on Mickelson, Woods understands that he still has a lot of work to do to get back into contention for his third major championship this season and the 11th of his career.

"I'll be setting the pins for Phil and the boys, make sure the dew is swept off and making sure everything is nice and neat," Woods said jokingly.

Woods is not discounting his chances.

"I've snuck in there before and I've won the tournament, but if there's any tournament you can move your way up the board, it's a major championship," he said. "A lot will be dependent on what Phil does over the next couple of days. If Phil goes ahead and shoots two good rounds on the weekend, in the mid-60s, he'll probably win the tournament."

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