Storm weathers delay to put Woods in shade
Monday 24 March 2008
Graeme Storm has the chance of his, and almost every golfer's, lifetime here today in the rain-delayed final round of the WGC CA Championship. The Hartlepool professional, who not so long ago was working in a cake factory, is three behind the Australian leader, Geoff Ogilvy, with nine holes remaining and playing the finest golf of his career.
Yet it is the name below Storm on the leaderboard which makes the tale seem that bit more far-fetched.
Tiger Woods is on 12-under, trailing Storm by two and whatever else befalls the unheralded 30-year-old here in Miami, Storm can always look back on a round in which he outscored the world No 1 by nine shots. In the penultimate 18, which was finished off yesterday morning, Storm shot a 63 to Woods' 72 ; yes, fantasy has burst in on reality and threatens to end sport's most talked-about streak.
It will take something immense today from that special locker of Tiger's to extend his tournament winning sequence to eight, especially with Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, at the head of the field. Nobody is writing off Woods' chances – nobody would dare – although Storm was simply happy to bask in two days in which he not only conquered Woods and Miami's "Blue Monster", but also a series of weather suspension that could have robbed him of his precious momentum. The scale of his achievement can be told in the fact that he is 13-under for his last 30 holes.
Storm had completed 15 holes in seven-under when the thunder arrived on Saturday. His drive off the 16th was in mid-air when the horn sounded and he watched in frustration as it landed in a fairway bunker. He stewed about his next shot all night and returned yesterday morning delighted to discover "the perfect lie". Storm picked his wedge sweetly off the wet sand to within seven feet and that birdie was followed by another on the 18th, one of the most treacherous holes on Planet Golf. It meant he was a remarkable seven-under for the back nine. "That's the best round I've ever had," said Storm after matching Vijay Singh's low score of the week. "To come back in 29 on a course like this is a massive, massive confidence boost."
It is fair to say that this unassuming ego has been under radical reconstruction for the last 15 months. Five years ago, after losing his card in his first professional season, the 1999 Amateur champion had to supplement his meagre winnings by cleaning cake trays. Since the start of 2007 he has earned more than £1m, won his first European Tour title, the French Open last June, led a major and is now in contention in one of golf's most prestigious fields. "The change in fortunes has been amazing," said Storm. "I was the first-round leader at the USPGA and I learnt a lot, despite finishing poorly. You need to go through those experiences. I seem to suffer blows and then come back from them. Like this week. I started badly, but learnt from my mistakes. You don't need to tell me that if I could pull it off here, I would be in the Masters field. I played there in 2000 as an amateur and would love to go back."
That unlikelihood was just one of the carrots dangling in front of the player ranked 136th in the world. Playing in the final group alongside Ogilvy and Singh, Storm birdied two of the first nine to stay in contention on a stellar leaderboard that included his partners, as well as luminaries such as Jim Furyk, with Singh on 15-under in second, and Retief Goosen and Adam Scott. Exalted company, but then it usually is in wonderland.
And then there was Woods, trying to equal his own biggest final-round comeback and so stay on the history trail of Byron Nelson's record of 11 consecutive wins. Woods was five behind when the round began and that deficit remained as the magic failed to kick in. It was also down to Ogilvy, who, did not post a bogey in his first 60 holes. Ogilvy's blemish finally came on the seventh, giving the others hope. Indeed, Storm was positively bursting with the stuff.
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