Featured Golf News
Friday at Southern Hills
Editor's Note: As promised, here is the second installment by Cybergolf's Jay Flemma of the recently completed PGA Championship at Southern Hills. The second round was highlighted by Tiger Woods' 63, a major-tying score that not only could have been a record-breaking 62 save for a lipped-out putt on the 18th hole, but it deflated the rest of the field's morale.
It was fitting that Woods went off early Thursday because it set the stage for him closing the proceedings on Friday with fireworks. Much like a headlining rock band rightfully having the stage for themselves to end the gig and sending everyone home singing and screaming for more - a smattering of club pros and Tour newbies aside - Woods fired not only the last shots of the day, but ones that resounded throughout the course and record books.
The day began as every other did that week. A steamy Thursday evening that offered no relief from the sweltering heat of the day gave way to a Fry-day (I mean Friday) scorcher. Graeme Storm fell out of the sky and off the leaderboard. Daly faltered with a 73 as did Padraig Harrington. Woody Austin held fast, but barely so. Players jockeyed for position and little seemed remarkable. Then Woods set sail.
Just like the "Skull and Crossbones" struck fear into the hearts of merchantmen at sea, Woods' name rising up the leaderboard like a streaking skyrocket makes Tour players' stomachs plummet to their feet and their hearts fill with dread. It was a stirring, swashbuckling performance Woods delivered. The field was sailing in calm seas with full sails, then with an awful finality, brutally swift, they were taken.
Like cannon fire crippling a ship, so too did Woods' fusillades fly straight and true, striking the enemy in the vitals, all but mortally wounding them with still half the tournament to go. With his swing perfectly on plane and sticking to his game plan of positioning off the tee, (he teed off No. 10 with a 7-iron, for goodness sakes . . . a 7-iron!) he then fired short-iron approaches to the flat portions of the greens and rolled in the straight putts. Woods' incomparable preparation and laser precision brought him closer and closer to the enemy. No amount of sail canvas, sturdy main and mizzenmasts or well-steered rudder could escape Woods when he spots sails on the horizon.
Birdie followed birdie. Players' spirits, once strong and courageous, melted with grim resignation. Woods makes even the most resolute opponent seem weak and querulous in the face of his barrages. Being continually outshone is an occupational hazard of being his contemporary. The gnawing fear in every player's mind turns to dismay when Tiger Woods is on his game and charging.
It's not football; you can't tackle him or direct the play to the weak side. It's not baseball; you can't walk him or hit him with a fastball to intimidate him. It's not basketball; you can't give a hard foul and stand over him administering a warning to stay out of the paint or pay the price. When Woods is on and he's charging, players can only watch helplessly as he streaks toward them. When he comes for you, you're his.
It's an inexorable march to an ineluctable fate. When his Jolly Roger is spotted on the horizon, he will likely chase you down. It's all but a fait accompli. Calm seas turn tumultuous. Where it was once clear sailing, an enormous, peaceful disc of ocean passing with a measured, pleasant pace, suddenly the seas are cold and uneasy, a desolate expanse in which Woods and Woods alone is comfortable. He's almost like a cat, toying with the field, playing with his prey before striking the fatal blow.
And fire away he did, guns blazing. Another birdie - this time a 30-foot putt - he was two behind, inching closer. Stevie, get ready to sight the cannons. A chip in on 11 and suddenly he's just one back. Now to strike. Woods and Williams, a two-man man-o-war shredding the rigging with grapeshot, blasting away the rudder with cannonade, felling the mainmast and suddenly, there he is in the lead! Your ship is crippled and he is boarding you in the smoke from the full broadside. With a 2-iron for a cutlass and a 9-iron for a blunderbuss, Tiger cut a terrible swath through the helpless, hapless field. They were powerless to do anything but watch and wait for their ship to founder as Woods made off with the spoils.
They better pick tougher courses because one of these days, he'll fire two 63s in a major. With Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach slated for the U.S. Open, watch for it. In fact Woods could take the next three consecutive U.S. Opens - Torrey and Pebble, which he owns, sandwich Bethpage, where he won in 2002. Sure, as the tournament played out, Austin and Els made gallant charges like General Stark during the Revolutionary war - "We'll win the day or Molly [his wife] will be a widow!" - but still by Friday, even though his lead was merely one, the field was essentially reduced to flotsam and jetsam, a shipwreck in lost latitudes.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.