Australia's finest stand in the way of Woods
Saturday 22 March 2008
It has already developed into Australia versus Tiger Woods here at the WGC CA Championship in Miami, but even that nation of shrinking violets may not be bullish about their chances this weekend. Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott are no mugs, but then you do not necessarily need to be for Woods to make you look like one.
At least Ogilvy is holding the advantage after two days of supremely-controlled golf in which he has been the only player in the 79-man field to keep a bogey off his card. The 2006 US Open champion compiled a 67, to go with Thursday's 65, and at 12-under is one ahead of Woods, three clear of Scott and six better than the group on fourth. Yet as always the brunt of the focus fell on one man and one man only. Fortunately, Woods is rather adept at justifying all the interest.
The image that will stick from this second round was Woods, left arm aloft, marching towards the final hole after seeing a 25-foot downhiller taking its curving path into the centre of the cup for a 66. It was similar to the putt that won him the Arnold Palmer Invitational last Sunday, which golfing legend now has as being Tiger's seventh tournament victory on the bounce. Doral was resounding to the chorus last night of "eight and counting?"
What makes it all seem so inevitable is not only his almost blemish-free record when appearing in the final grouping on Saturday, but the growing conviction that Woods will simply refuse to be beaten. After his round he gave a snapshot of the psyche that petrifies professionals on fairways everywhere. "I don't see how you can live with yourself if you have not given your best," he said. "Some people do that. I don't know how. To me that is unacceptable. You know, Michael Jordan and I are wired the same way. MJ couldn't stand losing. He would do anything he possibly could to defeat his opponents. I'm the same way."
Yet even Jordan, the NBA legend, would be impressed with his friend's mental fortitude. How he operates at this level with the media banging on and on about streaks, records and history is one of the most incredible aspects of this sporting freak. "Sometimes you get caught up in the craziness [of playing with Woods]," said Ogilvy. "He doesn't seem to, though."
Yesterday was a case in point. After starting on the 10th, the world No 1 went through his first nine in a three-under 33, which was some going considering the strength of the breezes adding teeth to the "Blue Monster".
Woods did need some of his renowned magic, particularly at the 12th where he holed from a greenside bunker for an eagle three. This came after he had visited the sand on the par-five 10th and had watched in disgust as he flew the green. He recovered for his par and then had to do so again when he blasted out to 17 feet on the par-three 13th. On the first it was rabbit out of hat time again. Two hits on the par-five and he was left with a six-footer for eagle.
It was not all genius in spikes, however. On the eve of this event, Woods insisted that even he needed "the odd lucky break". Yesterday he received his measure of good fortune on the third, when a vicious hook found clear ground in between a group of trees and a lake. He still bogeyed, but it could have been worse and he recovered his poise to birdie the last two holes. The final-green celebration was in marked contrast to the scowl of the previous night's three-putt that threatened to ruin his night.
"I was mad about it pretty much all the way home," revealed Woods. "But then Sam came up crawling and I couldn't even remember what I shot after that."
Oh no, that's all his rivals need. Not only does he already possess every conceivable advantage, but even his baby daughter helps him relax instead of keeping him up all night. "That's one of the cool things about seeing Sam when I go home," added Woods.
Meanwhile, the British contingent were struggling to make an impact. Luke Donald fared commendably with a level par 72 to stay at four-under. Then there was Colin Montgomerie. He requires a top-four finish to qualify for next month's Masters and so not miss just his third major in 16 years. After day one he was 75th, now he is 72nd after a visit to the water on the 18th delivered a double-bogey and a 74. Just the 68 places to make up then.
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