Roughed-up Woods gets left behind 8-ball Masters champ tied for 21st, holds out hope of comeback; U.S. Open; Sidelight


BETHESDA -- Tiger Woods landed his first tee shot in a fairway bunker yesterday and spent so much of the third round digging out of the sand and rough that he ended up in a giant hole.

Grand Slam? The only place you're going to find one of those around here is at Camden Yards. When darkness finally halted play on a hazy, rain-drenched evening at the U.S. Open, Woods was eight strokes off the lead and tied for 21st place with two holes of yesterday's round still to be played before the final round today.

He has made some terrific comebacks during his spectacular amateur and professional career, but a victory now would be nothing short of miraculous. Woods acknowledged that, but he wasn't ready to pack up his clubs and go off in search of John Daly.

"I don't know," Woods said. "It depends on the conditions. It depends on what the leaders are doing and obviously what I do. If I play well, I can give myself a chance at winning, but it all follows the leaders, whether they keep going forward or they stay right there."

Eight strokes would be formidable enough, but that deficit is all but insurmountable with 20 golfers in front of him. Woods, who bogeyed four of the six holes he played after the rain delay, apparently will have to wait until next year to make a run at all four tournament championships.

It was an eventful day for everyone at the Congressional Country Club, but Woods seemed to be knee-deep in something on every other hole. He saved par after hitting bunker shots on his first two tee shots, but criss-crossed the fairway and overshot the green to double-bogey No. 4.

He was off the fairway so much, in fact, that he benefited from a little duffer's luck on the 11th hole, when his approach shot hit the grandstand and bounced back into play. The ball settled into a swale about 20 feet off the green, so he pulled out a 3-wood and made a 40-foot "putt" for his second birdie in a row.

The gallery went wild -- not a bad way to come back after a two-hour rain delay -- but Woods could not sustain any kind of momentum. He bogeyed the next three holes, needed some luck to save par on No. 15 and finished with another bogey on the par-4 16th.

"I hit a bad shot to start off with [on No. 11]," Woods said. "I hit the grandstand and holed a 3-wood from over the green, but I never really hit a whole lot of good shots. And then when I did

get on the green, I couldn't get the pace of the green and it made me three-putt a few times.

"I could never get the speed right. And, when you're playing greens this fast, you have to have the speed."

The whole tournament has been a struggle for consistency for golf's new star. He shot a 4-over 74 on Thursday to drop well off the pace, then came back with a 67 in the second round to get back in contention. He still was in the hunt after the birdie on the 11th hole yesterday, but never got really comfortable after the rain delay.

"It comes in spurts," Woods said. "I'll play four or five or six good holes, then I'll kind of lose it for a little bit. And, hopefully, I'll get it back. But it's never really stayed with me an entire round. I've never had the flow of my golf swing all 18 holes or my putting stroke. And, when you're playing on a golf course that is this severe, you're eventually going to pay the price."

Woods probably would have to shoot in the low 60s to have even a tiny chance of keeping his Grand Slam hopes alive. The difficulty of the Congressional layout and the condition of the course following the heavy rain make that highly unlikely, but Woods said he probably would be more aggressive with his approach shots today in the hope of closing on the leaders.

"If I'm swinging well, yeah, I might fire at the pin," he said. "I need to hit a lot of good shots, give myself opportunities. Whether I make them or not, I hope I will make them. But the key in shooting any good round is to give yourself some chances and, tomorrow, if my swing is feeling any good, I'll have some chances. If it's not, then I'll have to give myself those 15- to 20-footers and hope I make them."

Pub Date: 6/15/97

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