No Paper Tiger: Host Woods Roars Into Lead

At&t National

He Shoots 66

Showdown With Kim Is Still On Track

July 04, 2009|By Barry Svrluga | Barry Svrluga,The Washington Post

BETHESDA - -The assumption, at about noon Friday, was that Tiger Woods would head to the clubhouse at Congressional Country Club with the lead in the AT&T National, and that later in the afternoon Anthony Kim would match - and perhaps surpass - the number Woods posted. That would set up a fireworks-filled weekend at the tournament Woods hosts, with golf's leading man and a swaggering Tiger wannabe staring each other down come sunset Sunday.

"If that happens, it happens," Woods said after his sometimes ragged but still impressive 66 that got him to 10-under-par 130 through two rounds, firmly in the lead. It was hardly a dismissive assessment because Woods knows Kim's enormous ability. But as Woods also likes to say, "This is golf." Kim is 24. He is emotional by nature. He has not won in a year. And hoping for a Sunday stare-down on a Friday afternoon amounts to exactly that: hope.

So it was that Kim dragged himself from the Blue Course after an even-par 70 and said, simply, "It was a grind." Instead of seizing the lead and battling Woods in today's third round, he battled his own swing and his own emotions, and he now sits two back of the lead, with 39-year-old Australian Rod Pampling (64-131) wedged in between.

"Probably one of my toughest ball-striking days in a long time," Kim said. "Being only two back is a blessing after today."

So it is in that fashion - Woods' cold calculation and keep-it-together professionalism, combined with Kim's still-developing maturity - that Congressional produced a leader board that might portend a wonderful holiday weekend. There is Woods, who is quite happy with the notion of winning his own event. There is Kim, who won here a year ago and is thus adored. As playing partner Jim Furyk said, "We had a ton of people. 'AK' actually draws a pretty good crowd."

There is also Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champ who had a 67 and sits three back. Toss in current U.S. Open champ Lucas Glover (66-135) and U.S. Amateur champ Danny Lee (67-135), and there are plenty of intriguing names within five shots of the lead.

It is a lead, though, that is held by Woods, so the assumption that anyone will be involved in a Sunday showdown is just that: an assumption. Woods has previously led 37 times midway through a PGA Tour event. He has won 31 of those times. That is a statistic that just backs up the vibe the world's No. 1 player brings to an event.

"There's nothing wrong with stats," Furyk said. "It's just reiterating what he's done, and telling the truth. We all know he's tough to get the lead from when he gets out front, and he's playing real well right now. We've all got our hands full. He's the guy to chase."

Woods is in that position because when his game might have slipped away, he grabbed it back. He started on the back nine and made a bogey on the tough, uphill, par-4 11th - the only hole he bogeyed in Thursday's fine 64. But around the time he made the turn, Woods started, as he said, hitting the ball "a little bit scratchy at times."

That means he drove it in the rough on 17, but saved par. He hit it in a fairway bunker on the par-4 first, and calmly hit a pitching wedge to 6 feet, a remarkable birdie. He then found himself with an awkward, side-hill stance on a greenside knoll on the second, discovered a decent lie and made a splendid chip to a couple feet. And on the third, he flubbed a wedge on his approach - "Just a bad shot," he said - but saved yet another par.

That, then, is how the best player in the world holds together rounds that might slip away from others. It is also, when post-tournament analyses are turned in, a significant component of how Woods wins so often.

"Even the tournaments where I've gone pretty low - a couple tournaments where I've shot 25-under - there's always that one day where you don't feel as good as the others," Woods said. "But sometimes those days you actually may score lower. ... The game is just kind of weird that way."

Leader board

Tiger Woods

64-66 - 130 Rod Pampling

67-64 - 131 Anthony Kim

62-70 - 132 Jim Furyk

66-67 - 133 Bryce Molder

64-70 - 134 D.A. Points

64-70 - 134 Daniel Chopra

66-68 - 134 Stuart Appleby

66-69 - 135 Lucas Glover

69-66 - 135 Danny Lee

68-67 - 135 Ryan Moore

69-66 - 135 Cameron Beckman

68-67 - 135

Selected followers

Vijay Singh

70-68 - 138 Rocco Mediate

70-69 - 139 Fred Funk

71-76 - 147

AT&T NATIONAL

When: Through Sunday

Congressional CC, Bethesda

Today's TV: Golf Channel, 3 p.m.

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