The elite play uglyWoods and Co. are off Target
By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The big crowd around the 18th at Sherwood Country Club applauded generously as Mike Weir walked up to the green. Weir, after a mediocre 75 on Thursday, had hit his approach tight to the flag and had a four-foot putt for 68 to get right back into contention at the $5-million US Target World Challenge.
But the applause turned to a whispered buzz when Weir pulled his sand wedge instead of his putter. Weir surveyed the shot, then bladed it into the heart of the cup for birdie.
"Best putt I hit all day," said Weir, whose round of four-under-par 68 could just as easily have been eight or 10 under, had he putted with any consistency.
Minutes before, he had missed a four-foot birdie putt at the 17th. He did not break his putter, though he probably wanted to.
"I have this little drill that I do when I'm practising my putting," Weir said. "I blade my wedge to help me concentrate on making good contact.
"I had been putting so horribly all day, I figured I had a better chance using the wedge (on 18). I missed at least five putts inside eight feet."
Golf is not a game of "How?"
It's a game of "How many?"
Typically, on a day when his usual weapon of choice, the putter, let him down, Weir found a way to cobble together a decent score.
Now he is one of 10 in the 16-man field within two shots of the lead.
Defending champion Padraig Harrington had the best round of the day, a 67, to take the lead at three-under-par. Chris DiMarco, Davis Love and tournament host Tiger Woods are a shot back, followed by Weir, Vijay Singh, Nick Price, Robert Allenby, K.J. Choi and Justin Leonard another stroke back in pursuit of the winner's cheque for $1 million.
Weir wasn't the only player whose game drifted in and out here yesterday, brilliant one moment, unfocused the next. It's the end of a too-long season and everybody wants to get into a holiday mode.
"As I said to my brother, who is also my caddy, 'It's time to clean out our desks,' " Love said. "When you hit a bad shot this week, it's easier to have a letdown. You start talking to yourself, saying things like 'Oh man, it has been a long year.'
"Knowing you're right at the finish line, it's easier to get frustrated this week than it is in June."
Love played with Woods, who was kicking himself after the round for making a few bonehead plays.
For example, at the par-5 second hole, he hit his second shot to the green, but it hit just short and rolled back into a greenside creek.
Instead of taking a drop at the green, he angrily dropped in the fairway and proceeded to make a triple-bogey eight.
"That is probably one of the uglier rounds I could have played," Woods said. "At two, I made the wrong club selection and, like an idiot, dropped it (in the fairway) instead of up by the green, then three-putted. It wasn't the only place I compounded the problem, either.
"If I could just clean things up and get rid of the dumb mistakes, maybe I can get something going."
So it hasn't been exactly the kind of brilliant golf you might expect of professionals of such an elite nature, but there is every chance the weekend could bring that out of this field with so many still in touch with the lead.
"I thought I was going to be three or four shots behind after today and then I came off the 18th green and realized I was leading," Harrington said.
"There's a good score out there for somebody this weekend."