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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

U.S. Open notebook: Tiger's putter on endangered list?

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

PINEHURST, N.C. - Perhaps between now and the time he walks onto the No. 1 tee at Pinehurst No. 2 for today's final round of the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods might want to consider snapping his putter over his knee and starting anew.

Nobody in the field has hit more greens in regulation (77.8 percent) through three rounds and no one has needed more putts (100).

Yesterday, Woods hit 16 greens and putted 36 times, which is believed to be the highest single-round total of his pro career. It added up to a 2-over-par 72 that left him at 3-over for the tournament, six shots behind leader Retief Goosen.

"On most of my putts I'm being defensive because they [start] uphill and then go straight away from me," Woods said. "You feel like if you hit it three feet past the hole it'll be off the green. I heard Phil [Mickelson] say he had to lag putts six feet short. That's what I did. If you get a hair aggressive, it's off the green.

"You can't take a run at these flags. You have a wedge in your hand and you're firing 15 feet right or left of the hole. So you end up with 20, 30-foot putts and you have to force yourself not to lag. The golf course is so demanding."

If Woods had managed to equal his PGA Tour average of 28 putts per round, he'd be about 13 under and own a 10-shot lead.

Instead, he's facing an unlikely bid from six strokes behind.

"The way I have to approach it is that I'm one good round away from winning this championship," Tiger said. "All I can do is give it my best. Something in the red would be nice."

THE ACE: Peter Jacobsen, the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion, is within seven shots of the lead after a third-round 69 that was highlighted by a hole-in-one on the ninth hole. He holed a 7-iron shot from 175 yards.

"It was one of those shots that I knew was fantastic the minute it left the club," Jacobsen said. "I didn't know it was going to go in, but I knew it was going to get close. It was right on line, took one bounce, and went in."

It was the 39th hole-in-one in U.S. Open history.

OLD HANDS: Experience must count for something because the old-timers in the field stood up to the test nicely in yesterday's third round.

In addition to the 51-year-old Jacobsen, whose 69 matched leader Retief Goosen for the day's low round, 48-year-old Nick Price carded a 72, 45-year-old Corey Pavin matched par of 70, and 44-year-old Kenny Perry had a 71.

Price and Pavin are at 5-over for the tournament, one shot behind Jacobsen, while Perry is 6-over.

"I'm just enjoying myself," said Perry. "I don't have any pressure on me. I'm loving this course. It's torture, but I'm loving it."

ON THE REBOUND: David Toms was leading late in Friday's second round before suffering a double bogey-triple bogey collapse on the final two holes.

He rebounded nicely yesterday with an even-par 70 and is within five shots of the lead after 54 holes.

"My only thought going out was to play the first hole well," he said. "I finished double-triple; I didn't want to follow that by getting off to a bad start. I played good, solid golf. I needed a good round [yesterday] and I had one. I've got a chance.

"It's going to have to be a good round [today], but that's the way it should be. You should have to play well to win. If I can put together all the parts of my game I'll be fine. I'll have to drive better. It was a struggle for me off the tee. It's tough to play this golf course when you can't get in the fairways."

EAGLE LANDS: Denmark's Thomas Bjorn eagled the 336-yard, par-4 third hole when he holed his pitching wedge shot from 123 yards. It was about his only highlight in a round of 75.

BRAIN DEAD: Ernie Els had two birdies and two double bogeys on his card yesterday and claimed it didn't make much sense.

"I played the course under par from the rough and I made two doubles from easy scoring positions," he said. "It's just brain-dead stuff."

QUOTE-UNQUOTE: "Momentum is not even a word that you can associate with this golf course. I think survival might be a good word." - Pavin, after an even-par 70.



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