- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

Why don’t we do it this way? Why don’t we give the other 118 players in the AT&T; National the next three days off — split about $4.4 million among them and tell them to take in the sights and enjoy the fireworks — and just have Tiger Woods and Anthony Kim play head-to-head for the final 54 holes, winner take, well, whatever’s left in the kitty (just under $1.8 million, according to my calculations)?

Hey, it’s Tiger’s tournament. Can’t he run it however he darn well pleases?

No disrespect to D.A. Points and Bryce Molder, who put up 6-under 64s Thursday — or to Steve Elkington, Jim Furyk and the others who shot 67 or better — but wouldn’t golf fans enjoy seeing the King and the Uncrowned Prince turn the AT&T; into one of those “Showdown at Sherwood” deals?

You could call it the “Clash at Congressional.”

OK, so you can’t make up the rules as you go along on the PGA Tour. But if they keep making birdies the way they did in the first round — eight for Kim in firing a course-record 62, seven for Tiger en route to a 64 — we may get what amounts to a Woods-Kim match race anyway. How many guys can keep up with that?

Kim’s torching of Congressional — the tamest of Congressionals, it might be added, given the rain-softened greens and windless conditions — is nothing new, of course. He did the same thing last year, following a pair of 67s with a 69 and then closing with a 65 to win by two. Indeed, you’d have to go back to Craig Stadler in the early ‘80s to find the last player who was so locked in at Old Blue.

Consider: In his last five rounds in the AT&T;, Anthony is a ridiculous 20 under. (The Walrus, in his hottest 90-hole stretch, was 23 under, but that’s when par at Congressional was 72, not 70.)

Guess Kim is over that thumb injury that dogged him for three months and had him scrambling just to make cuts. But it was “awful” while it lasted, he said. “I mean I’ve been lucky to finish 50th a couple of times. It’s easy to get down on yourself” when you’re going through something like that.

One of the things that came out of it, though, was that he started “learning to manage my game even when I’m not on. Even [in during his round of 62] I used that [experience] and hit more 3-woods” off the tee.

Other players might have gone on the DL for a spell and tried to get healthy. A couple of doctors Kim consulted certainly suggested that. But he just isn’t wired that way, couldn’t have tolerated the inactivity.

“I like firing at pins,” he said. “I can’t help myself.” Besides, he added, “when I signed with Nike, they said they want athletes. Athletes and pros play through pain and play through injuries.”

Woods, Nike’s standard bearer, certainly did last year, when he became the first one-legged winner of the U.S. Open. Perhaps that served as additional motivation for Kim. How could he sit out with a bad thumb — a measly thumb — after Tiger had gutted it out at Torrey Pines with a torn-up left knee?

Speaking of Tiger, he, unlike Kim, hasn’t played Congressional particularly well — not, at least, by his standards. Granted, this is only the third time he has teed it up at Old Blue in competition, but his first two go-rounds yielded only a tie for 19th (‘97 Open) and a tie for sixth (‘07 AT&T;).

That’s unusual. There aren’t many courses that Woods hasn’t bent to his will. In fact, this is the first one he has played this year — the first out of nine — that he hasn’t already won on. Pretty amazing, no?

If you ranked the courses that have given Tiger the most trouble in the past decade or so — and “trouble,” in Tiger’s case, is a very relative term — Congressional would definitely make the list (along with Riviera, where he’s 0-for-9 as a pro, Westchester and TPC Scottsdale). But if Thursday’s 64 is any indication, that might be changing. He easily could have matched Kim’s score if he had gotten a couple of more putts, very makable putts, to drop.

“You can be so aggressive out there with the greens being so soft,” he said. “On No. 2 [a long par 3], you can hit a 5-wood in there and have no worries about it bouncing over the back.”

Woods, lest we forget, isn’t just a golfer; he’s a businessman, too. And no one knows better than him what it would mean for his tournament if he and the 24-year-old Kim, arguably the most gifted of the Up and Comers, dueled the weekend away at Congressional.

Few players have been able to hang with Tiger with a championship on the line, but Anthony — the kid who racked up 11 birdies in the second round of the Masters earlier this year — might be one of them. The possibility exists the next three days for Great Theater, some of the best D.C. has seen on the links.

“Hopefully, we can both get into that situation,” Woods said. “We have a long way to go before that happens. Today we both played well, but still, we have a long way to go before we can put ourselves in a position where if we do have a head-to-head battle, it is what it is.”

We can dream, can’t we?

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide