Expectations Of A Battle

Woods' Lead Shrinks To 2 Over Harrington, Yang

August 16, 2009|By Teddy Greenstein | Teddy Greenstein,Tribune Newspapers

CHASKA, Minn. - - Padraig Harrington could sense it in the thick, humid air above Hazeltine National. So could Ernie Els.

The fans want Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship. But they also long for drama.

"Everybody wants to see a battle," Harrington said. "It's part of our human nature to support the underdog."

A reporter asked Els whether he believed the galleries want to see him - or anyone, for that matter - duel Woods down the stretch today and threaten his two-shot lead.

"I could definitely feel that," Els said. "It's not a runaway deal. It looked like a runaway thing at the end of [Friday]. But it looks like the guys are really set to give Tiger a go. The crowd could sense that."

But Woods, whose baseball cap effectively shields him from all his surroundings, did not get a read of the fans.

"Mmmm ... no," he said. "I just hear them yelling a lot."

Woods did not give them much to shout about Saturday, converting only two birdies in a 1-under-par 71. Apparently the world's No. 1 was serious the other day when he talked about plodding his way around the course.

"I was pretty consistent," he said. "The card was pretty clean."

Yeah, but his golf wasn't all that pretty, with the exception of a gorgeous birdie on No. 14. After his second shot settled on the cusp of the fringe and green-side rough, Woods used the blade of his sand wedge to run the ball 15 feet into the cup.

He celebrated with a double fist pump, a contrast to the scowls that have resulted from anything less than a perfect shot.

"It jumped perfectly straight coming out, held its line, broke at the end and went in," Woods said.

That birdie ended a 22-minute period during which Woods shared the lead at 7-under with Harrington.

When Harrington bogeyed the 18th, his only blemish on the card, he fell two behind Woods in a tie for second with Y.E. Yang.

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and Players champion Henrik Stenson are four back. Els is five behind.

Yang was the first to post 6-under, so he gets to tangle with Woods today.

He shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday and knows the odds are against him with Woods going for his 15th major championship.

"Woods has won 70 times now [on the PGA Tour] and I've only won once, so it's 70-to-1 odds," he said. "Might as well go for broke."

Harrington, playing two groups in front of Woods on Saturday, said he got a "nice boost" from the galleries.

"I had tremendous support," he said. "Everybody hopes the underdog catches up, but when he catches up, ultimately, they want the hero to win. That's the way all the storybooks are written.

"Like if I'm watching a soccer match, even my own team, I want it to be close until the end. They want Tiger to win, but they don't want him to win by three or four shots. They want him to be pushed and tested, and I'm happy to fill that role. You never know what happens over the last nine holes."

Woods, meanwhile, seemed aware of only one aspect of his surroundings. While answering questions in the media center, he looked up as showers pelted the roof.

"Yeah," he said, "I think the greens are going to get softer."

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