- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2007

Tiger Woods still held a slim chance of charging to a victory yesterday at the AT&T; National as he approached the ninth hole, a par-5 playing as the second easiest of the day.

After a wrenching double bogey, he was over par for the tournament and essentially out of contention at Congressional Country Club.

Woods wound up rallying for an even-par round of 70 and a tie for sixth — seven shots behind winner K.J. Choi — in his first stint as the host of a PGA Tour event. But his chances to collect a victory were gone rather early.

“I had to play just an unbelievable back nine, and I needed help from guys to falter a little bit,” Woods said. “The way the guys were going back there, at the time there were three guys near the top, and you figured not all three of them are going to falter.”

He rued his adventure at No. 9, where he knocked the ball into the rough off the tee, then again with his third shot approaching the green.

Woods’ troubles weren’t over. He knocked it back over the green on his fifth shot, then two-putted to finish off his double bogey.

“What happened on [No.] 9?” Woods asked. “I got seven consecutive shots, and the last one finally went.”

Woods’ back nine was effective. He birdied four holes coming in, including two straight to finish. He was followed by a throng of fans even after he fell out of contention and waved after a large cheer when he sank a 10-footer at the 18th.

It was his second longest made putt of the day, and that facet of his game proved troublesome throughout the weekend. Still, Woods took quite a bit from his tournament as he prepares to defend his British Open title at Carnoustie in two weeks.

“I’m very pleased at the way I hit the golf ball,” Woods said. “The entire week I hit the ball really well. I made some great strides since the U.S. Open. I just didn’t make anything this week. I just never could get a putt to the hole, and when I did, it usually seemed to kind of fall by the wayside.”

Mahan’s move

Hunter Mahan matched the round of the tournament with a 65 to reach 1-under and finish tied for eighth.

The 25-year-old entered the day with more than an inkling he could produce a low number, then proceeded to hit 14 of 18 greens and rattle off six birdies against one bogey.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty good all week, and I could shoot a 64 or 65 out there today. I just knew it,” Mahan said. “I played about as smooth as I could except for 11.”

Mahan, who equaled Shigeki Maruyama’s third-round 65, has enjoyed a breakout season. Two weeks ago, he earned his first career victory, defeating Jay Williamson in a playoff at Hartford.

That result provided a benefit throughout the tournament for Mahan, who took a week off after his victory.

“It only changes a little bit but not much. I think a major is a life-changing thing,” Mahan said. “The first tournament, for me it just gave me so much confidence in myself and what I can do and allowed me to play good today.”

Divots

Besides Mahan’s 65, the best round of the day was Rocco Mediate’s 66. Mediate had a chance to match Mahan but bogeyed No. 18 to finish at 1 under. …

Takoma Park native Fred Funk shot 69 to finish at 7 over. The 51-year-old challenged for the lead in the first round with a 67 before fading Friday. …

Jamie Lovemark, who won the NCAA championship this year and was the only amateur in the field, shot 71 to finish at 5 over.

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