July 21st, 2006


More Tiger magic!

Miraculous eagle puts Woods in total control

The Associated Press
Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 11th green during the second round of the British Open Golf Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Course in Hoylake, England today.

AP National Writer

HOYLAKE, England — Tiger Woods stood in the middle of the 14th fairway with a dazed look, so far away from the green he couldn’t tell where his ball landed.
“It went in?” Woods asked caddie Steve Williams.
Yes, it did.
With another magical shot in a career already filled with them, Woods seized control of the British Open with a 7-under-par 65 today and cast aside the notion that his poor performance at Winged Foot was anything more than a rare off week for the world’s greatest golfer.
Woods already had grabbed the lead when he stood over a 4-iron at No. 14, the flag rippling in the breeze 209 yards away. He ripped a low shot that caught the edge of the green and hopped three more times before striking the stick, dropping straight in for eagle.
Walking toward the green, Woods heard the gasps from the gallery but didn’t know where his ball ended up. When told it was in the cup, he broke into a wide grin, gave his caddie a high-five and shrugged his shoulders, almost as if he was apologizing. Williams jokingly attempted to put the bag on Woods’ shoulder as the two made a triumphant walk up the fairway.
“It’s a bonus,” Woods said. “Trust me, I’m not trying to put the ball in the hole. I’m just trying to put it on the green and get out of there with a 4.”
Instead, he wrote down a 2 — and may have just written off the rest of the field.
Woods also made a 50-foot birdie putt at No. 8, strolling off the course with a 12-under 132 and a three-stroke lead over resurgent Chris DiMarco, who also shot 65.
Only one other golfer, two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen with a 136, was within five strokes of Woods, though many of the top players, including Phil Mickelson, had yet to tee off.
Everyone faces the daunting task of chasing down Woods, who’s never been beaten when he has a 36-hole lead in a major. He’s 6-0 as a front-runner, a spot he was in most recently a year ago at St. Andrews. He went on to a five-stroke victory and claimed the claret jug for the second time.
Woods said it’s too early to claim victory this year.
“I’m not here with the jug,” he said. “We’ve got 36 more holes to go. Unless there’s some kind of rainstorm coming and it’s canceled after two days, we have a long way to go.”
DiMarco, who still has hopes of making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, had a painful choice to make after his mother, Norma, died two weeks ago from an apparent heart attack. Instead of dropping out of the British Open, he decided this historic links along the Irish Sea would be an ideal place for everyone in his family to do some healing.
So far, golf has been the perfect salve.
“I certainly have a great peace about me this week,” DiMarco said. “My mom has always been a huge supporter of mine. She followed me around so many times, drove me around as a junior player everywhere. She would be absolutely (ticked) off if I didn’t play.”
With his father watching every shot, DiMarco rolled in a pair of 20-foot birdie putts at the first two holes and moved to the top of the leaderboard with an even longer run of birdies, four in a row starting at No. 8.
“I have my dad here with me,” he said. “Walking between the ropes is absolutely therapeutic for me. Walking outside the ropes, me playing well, is absolutely therapeutic for him.”
The American broke Graeme McDowell’s 1-day-old record for the best Open score at Royal Liverpool. Woods matched it less than an hour later.
DiMarco hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in four years, and his hopes of making the Ryder Cup team plummeted this year after he injured his ribs while skiing and struggled to regain his form.
He’s certainly played well for the red, white and blue, earning 2 1/2 points in the Ryder Cup two years ago and clinching the Presidents Cup with a 15-foot putt last fall. A strong performance at the British Open could be a major factor in at least being one of the captain’s picks should he not crack thetop 10.
“The Ryder Cup is huge,” DiMarco said. “Playing for my country is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done in golf.”
But that’s still a couple of months away. For now, he’s trying to catch Woods, who denied DiMarco his first major title in a Masters playoff in 2005.
His white shirt soaked with sweat on another warm, sunny day, Woods didn’t have to worry about making it to the weekend after missing the cut at the U.S. Open last month — the first time that’s happened at a major since he turned pro.
Woods opened with a 67 at Royal Liverpool and did even better today, positioning himself for a run at his 11th major championship.
Going with irons off the tee and taking only what the course will give him, Woods is clearly back in the game after taking an extended break to cope with the death of his father, a layoff that undoubtedly contributed to his poor showing at Winged Foot.
McDowell didn’t come close to replicating his six-birdie, no-bogey 66 from Thursday. The little-known golfer from Northern Ireland bogeyed the first hole and slumped to a 73, going from a one-stroke lead to a seven-shot deficit.
“It wasn’t the best of days,” McDowell said. “Now that I have Mr. Woods gallivanting out in front of me, the pressure could be off.”
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez started out like it was going to be his day. He had a four-stroke lead after playing the first five holes at 4 under, capped by an 18-foot eagle at the only par 5 on the front.
But Jimenez’s blazing start didn’t last. He had two straight bogeys after the eagle and finished with a 70, leaving him at 137 and five strokes behind Woods. Adam Scott of Australia was tied with the Spaniard, also was at 7 under.
Mickelson had a late tee time after shooting a 69 on Thursday, showing no lingering effects from his own debacle at Winged Foot.
Lefty could have arrived at the British Open with a chance to win his fourth straight major title, a feat accomplished only by Woods in the modern era. But Mickelson gave away the U.S. Open with a double bogey on the final hole when a par would have been good enough to win.
If he wants to get in position to win again, he’ll have to chase down Woods.


The Kentucky Kid is no fluke

Hayden off to Monterey as MotoGP point leader


AP Auto Racing Writer

It would have made sense for Nicky Hayden and his brothers to pursue NASCAR careers while growing up in Owensboro, Ky., a city that sent Darrell and Michael Waltrip and Jeremy Mayfield to the top of stock car racing.
But four wheels never was really their thing.
The Haydens always were interested in the high-speed thrills and spills of motorcycles, and Hayden has gone straight to the top. "The Kentucky Kid" competes in MotoGP, the world's premier motorcycle series that is as revered as Formula One racing.
Hayden heads to Monterey, Calif., this weekend as the defending champion of the Red Bull United States Grand Prix, and as the leader in the world championship standings.
"At the beginning, everybody thought it was a fluke," the 24-year-old Hayden said. "But I definitely feel strong. I've got a good team around me. I am healthy, and I feel really strong mentally and physically.
"We are a serious contender."
Tell that to Valentino Rossi, the five-time defending world champion who trails Hayden by 26 points. An Italian known as "The Doctor," Rossi's worldwide popularity and stature in MotoGP is akin to a Jeff Gordon or a Michael Schumacher.
Hayden knows holding him off over the final seven races will be difficult.