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Published: Sunday, 6/15/2003

U.S. Open notebook: Tiger made his move, but it was backwards

BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Stephen Leaney is Jim Furyk's closest pursuer at 7-under par after three rounds. He shot a 68 yesterday. Stephen Leaney is Jim Furyk's closest pursuer at 7-under par after three rounds. He shot a 68 yesterday.
MORRY GASH / AP Enlarge

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. - If this was moving day, Tiger Woods moved in the wrong direction.

The third round of any tournament is typically when players position themselves for a run at the championship. But in his past two events Woods has all but moved himself out of contention with his Saturday performances.

The latest occurred yesterday in the third round of the U.S. Open.

Woods began the day just three shots from the lead shared by Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk and ended it 11 shots back, thanks to a 75 - his highest score in a U.S. Open - that will make it difficult for him to defend his title.

“I need to get the ball in play and make some putts,” Woods said. “I didn't hit the ball that poorly, to be honest. I made nothing. If you don't have any momentum going, it's tough to shoot a good number.”

Woods, who is at one-over 211 after 54 holes, did the same thing two weeks ago at the Memorial. He was at six-under 138 and five shots behind leader Kenny Perry after two rounds, but shot himself out of contention with a third-round 76.

“I need to shoot a great round of golf and get some help from the others,” Woods said. “Go post a number and see what happens.”

The day started out bad for Woods, and it just went from there. On his second shot of the day, a spectator whistled loudly while Woods was in his backswing, and Woods badly flared the ball to the right, failing to reach the 576-yard hole in two. Woods parred the hole, but his failure to pick up a stroke there and at the par-5 sixth hurt his chances. Woods had a birdie and eagle at No. 6 the first two days.

“It happened on the downswing,” said Woods, who dropped his club after hitting the ball and stared in the direction of the whistle. “I can't stop that.”

Woods then three-putted No. 9 from 25 feet above the hole for bogey and followed with another bogey at No. 10. He stopped the sputtering with a 6-foot birdie at No. 14, but he gave it right back with a three-putt bogey at the par-3 15th.

“The greens looked fast, they looked like they were dried out, but it was hard to believe they were slower,” Woods said. “I felt a little uneasy on some putts because of the greens. I couldn't figure them out. It was a mental war for me to go ahead and release the putter.”

MICKELSON'S WOES: Apparently the major drought of Phil Mickelson will continue.

Mickelson, who has never won a major in 43 appearances, shot himself out of another with a third-round 75 that included just one birdie.

“I was hitting it good early, driving it well and giving myself birdie opportunities on Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4,” said Mickelson, who is at 5-over 215. “When I didn't birdie numbers 1 and 2, it hurt because they were easy opportunities.”

Mickelson finished second in last year's Open and was third for the third year in a row at the Masters. He has just one top 10 finish since returning to the tour after the birth of his third child, and that was at Augusta National.

“I didn't get off to a good start and then it just got worse,” Mickelson said.

FAST START: Masters champion Mike Weir got off to a fast start, shooting 32 on the front with the aid of an eagle at the par-5 sixth. But he had two bogeys on the back and had to settle for a 68, which left him at 2-under 208.

“I only missed two shots on the back nine and made bogey with both of them,” Weir said. “You know, it's still the same scenario as the first couple days - I'm just not making enough putts to sustain any momentum to really challenge. There may be too many guys in between.”

Ernie Els did not get off to a good start, driving his ball in the left rough and making bogey at the first hole. It was the beginning of an up-and-down round for the British Open champion, who shot 69 and is at 2-under 208.

NEW CADDIE: Vijay Singh switched caddies last week, going back to Dave Renwick, who looped for him when he won the PGA Championship in 1998 and the Masters in 2000.

Singh had been using Paul Tesori the past three years, but he made the change despite winning the Byron Nelson Classic last month with Tesori on his bag.

“I've got a little more calmer effect with Dave on the bag,” Singh said. “He's a lot more positive, he's a lot more sure, when I'm over the ball, what he's going to say. I was happy to have him back.”

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.



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