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Published: Monday, 6/18/2001

U.S. Open notebook: Woods' failure highlights success

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

TULSA, Okla. - Tiger Woods' 3-over-par finish in the United States Open should, if nothing else, make golf fans even more appreciative of what he accomplished by winning four straight major championships.

The streak ended yesterday at Southern Hills Country Club as Woods finished 12th.

Winning majors is difficult and demands playing at an incredibly high level. The fact that Woods did it for as long as he did, and made it look fairly easy in the process, probably created unrealistic expectations.

“I don't think people really understand how difficult it is on you to keep putting yourself there, and the stress it puts on you coming down the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win,” Woods said after closing with a second straight 1-under 69. “More times than not, it wears you out. It's stressful out there.”

Woods said it will not be difficult for him to refocus, because “once your week is over, it's done and you can start all over again.”

Another reason that should be no problem, he said, is that he leaves Southern Hills feeling relatively good about his game and his play over the weekend.

“I hit some really good shots that just ended up in some places that were pretty tough to play from,” Woods said. “I played as hard as I could. I tried on every shot and have no regrets. There's nothing wrong with the way I played.”

And there's certainly nothing wrong with the way he was able to dominate major championship golf over the past year, since winning the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots.

“For some reason, it's hard for me to look at it as a streak just because it covered so much time,” Tiger said. “But it was fun to win four majors in a row, no doubt about that. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed, more than anything, giving myself chances on the back 9 on Sunday. That's where you want to be.

“This week, unfortunately, I wasn't out there with the chance to win. And that is frustrating, but I've had my share and hopefully I can have my share in the future.”

Among the Tiger Woods streaks that ended this week:

  • 15 consecutive rounds in the 60s.

  • 19 consecutive rounds at par or better in the majors

  • 38 consecutive rounds at par or better.

  • 40 consecutive events under par.

  • 8 straight top 10s in majors.

    SENIOR MOMENT: Two golfers who mostly compete on the Senior PGA Tour these days provided some highlights in the 101st U.S. Open.

    Hale Irwin was the leader in the clubhouse with a 3-under 67 when last Thursday's first round was suspended overnight because of weather.

    And, yesterday, Tom Kite came within one shot of equaling the lowest round in Open history, settling for a 6-under 64.

    “Hale got us off to a good start and I finished it pretty decently,” said the 51-year-old Kite, who played in his 30th Open. “I thought this was a good course for both of us.

    “I didn't think about the Open record (63) until I was in the scorer's tent. I immediately thought of my three-putt on No. 6 and wanted to kick myself. But I also made a 90 or 100-footer on the eighth hole, so I guess those things even out. I have no complaints.”

    Kite, the 1992 Open winner who finished this time at 1-over 281, credited his hot finish to a change in practice location.

    “This might sound strange, but for the first few days I was working on the upper end of the range where there's a left-to-right wind,” he said. “After that, I hit the ball very poorly for three rounds. I was hanging on my left side and never felt like I was getting through the ball. Last night and this morning I moved down to the bottom where I was hitting uphill and into a right-to-left wind. And I felt much better.

    “I hit 11 fairways and 16 greens, which is pretty good. A couple of the fairways I missed were still good drives. So I was pretty happy. It might not translate to much when you start the final day at 7-over, but it's still nice to shoot a good round. A 64 in a major championship is very, very low.”

    TOO LATE: Vijay Singh matched Kite's 64 and lamented, “Why do I have to have a round like that when I can't win? I played good all week but didn't make any putts. Today, they decided to go in. I'm very disappointed about how I finished (2-over 282) because I know I am playing much better than what I (scored) the first three days. I wanted to win this so bad, that's probably why I didn't.”

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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