Tiger Slumps and Phil Surges at Torrey Pines

Tiger had some unforced errors on the incoming nine Friday and Phil just played a solid round of golf to keep the leaders within sight as Saturday began, a day that was being labeled as “University Day,” with players wearing the colors and logos of their respective schools. Young Bill Haas who lost in a playoff the week earlier at the Bob Hope Classic took the lead by two over L.A. native Anthony Kim and Freddie Jacobson. John Daly, playing on a sponsor’s exemption was right there at 9 under. Phil was tied with the popular rising star Rickie Fowler of Murrietta, both paired for round three with Bubba Watson. Besides Tiger, Phil and AK, the leader board had a nice splash of California golfers including Hunter Mahan, Kevin Sutherland, Brendan Steele, Pat Perez, Jamie Lovemark and Zack Miller. And then there was the young teenage amateur from La Jolla Country Day School who made the cut by a shot and had a teenage gallery that occasionally sounded like he just saw Justin Bieber. But now it was the weekend and everyone would be tested on the South Course for the final 36, where anything and everything can happen.
In the early portion of the day where the weather was still immaculate, albeit a little cooler, the leaders found trouble. Tiger bogeyed three of the first five. Daly made a mess of the fourth, Fowler bogeyed the first, then birdied five to right the ship, but no one was going low except for Brandt Snedeker, who just three years ago tempted us with a possible 59 on the North course, finished third in 09 and has expressed his love for this course went out in 32. Bubba Watson also had a nice front nine and on a beast of a layout like the South, he had some advantages. As the day progressed however, the early leaders found trouble and by the time Snedeker sauntered home he dropped three shots and was wondering what happened. Haas, the overnight leader continued his steady play and held a one shot lead over Mickelson with only four holes left in round three. Phil caught Haas on the 16th with a brilliant 4-iron that left him a five foot birdie putt, which he converted. But in the crush of the final few holes the leader board now looks as strong as the field was coming in, yet Tiger Woods and John Daly are not among them. Even Rickie Fowler, who was wearing his customary Sunday orange in honor of University Day, fell off with some errant drives and one fluke sand shot on #6 where he soared over the green and would have been on #1 tee if not for the grand stand. “Yeah, I had to tell Bubba and Phil that I’ll be back in a little while,” he said chuckling. He saved his par. “I was in a good position coming into the day and just didn’t get it done. Tomorrow is a different day and hopefully I can get it going early and get myself back into contention.” Hunter Mahan got himself in the Sunday mix with an eagle on 18 that got him to 11 under, one shot behind Mickelson and Haas. “ ….
Tiger sounded frustrated as he hit in his own words “a lot of loose shots.” He reminisced about how in mid 1997 until late 1999 he didn’t win while he was going through changes with Butch Harmon. Somehow though he just looks like he still searching for something whether it’s his swing or peace in his life. For the record, his 74 was his first round over par in PGA Tour event son the South course in 21 rounds. “I didn’t swing the club very well at all. I didn’t feel comfortable, as I said until 16. By then it’s too late and the damage had already been done.” In his group was a jovial and happy Johnny Vegas who shot 3 under and finds himself again in a late group on back to back Sundays. “It was an honor to play with Tiger,” said the young Venezuelan. “I really enjoyed it, all the fans, all the excitement. The course is playing really hard but we found time to talk briefly about non golf stuff. It was really a lot of fun for me. I look forward to tomorrow a lot.” Tiger was impressed with Vegas commenting that he had never seen him play golf before. “He’s a really nice kid so it was good to see him play well.”
Long hitting Bubba Watson eagled 18 after hitting 342 yard drive and a 7-iron from 207. That got him into the next to last group for Sunday with Anthony Kim (71) and Vegas. On 18 he said to Fowler, “If I make this putt I’m buying dinner. So now I’ve got my wife, caddie, friends and the Fowler group so about 12 people I have to buy for. It’s ok. I like the eagle.” The final threesome will feature Mickelson, Haas and Mahan. After play Jim Nantz stopped over to say hello and tell me that he too was excited about the leader board for Sunday. Clearly overlooked is Kevin Sutherland from Sacramento. No one wanted to interview him after his round (71) as the big names were being hounded and he quietly left for the putting green. Kevin sits four shots back, quietly. Tiger will play with Brendan Steele of Idylwild, CA and Greg Chalmers teeing off at 8:25, eleven groups ahead of the leaders who tee off at 10:15 as CBS hopes for a 3:30 conclusion.
The day did belong to Torrey Pines and the pristine weather, and to Phil Mickelson. “I thought that the day went well. Bubba played well especially finishing birdie, eagle. Bill Haas is playing some great golf. I think it’s going to be a great challenge tomorrow.” It certainly sets up for what golf fans have been looking for and television has been begging to see, a plethora of big names chasing history at a venerable seaside course in front of a raucous crowd that will certainly be rooting for their hometown favorite. And maybe, just maybe there will be a happening somewhere in back row. If Torrey Pines played as tough as it did today where only a dozen players shot in the 60’s then Sunday ought to prove even more of a test. It’s nice to see golf exciting again!
By — Wil Barnes

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