Monday, August 13, 2007

Tiger wins PGA for Major #13

Given Tiger Woods' perfect 12-for-12 record in majors when leading going into the final day, Ernie Els said if he were a betting man he'd "bet the house on Tiger." Els began the day six strokes out of the lead, knowing it would take a major miracle for him to catch the Tiger... Els, spoke for the rest of the field as well. Someone would have to shoot a very low score and/or hope that Tiger would have a rare bad final round if they were going to take the 2007 PGA Championship away from the world's #1 ranked player. Ironically, "The Big Easy" was one of the two players who would make a run at Tiger, notching birdies on four of his first 10 holes to pull within two strokes of the lead at five-under-par. Els would get no closer to the lead; though he would briefly reach six-under-par after a bogey on 12 and consecutive birdies on 13 and 14. A costly bogey on the 507 yard par-4 16th hole all but ended his chances. His four under par 66 would leave him with a four round total of 275 (five-under-par), good enough for third place.

As for Tiger, he did what we've become so accustomed to seeing him do when he takes a lead going into the final round - steady, safe, almost mistake-free golf, daring someone else to try to shoot for the tough Sunday pins and attempt to make a run. One of those chasers was Tiger's playing partner, Canada's Stephen Ames. Ames began the day at 4-under-par and just three strokes back, but he would falter early, bogeying his first two holes. It would be that kind of day for Ames as he would end up with as many bogeys as pars (eight). Ames would only tally two birdies on the day, struggling to a six-over-par 76. He finished at two-over-par, 282 and 10 strokes back.

Tiger struggled a bit early in his final round, holing a six foot putt to save par on the first hole and then bogeying the second hole after a poor drive. He quickly righted the ship though, with birdies on four, seven and eight to get to nine-under-par. The lead was now five strokes, and Tiger pumped his fist in celebration after the birdie putt on the 8th had dropped. He thought he had his 13th major in the bag at that point, but it turned out to not be that easy.

In addition to the Els challenge, 43-year-old Woody Austin made a run of his own. Woods gave back a stroke on the 9th with a bogey, while Austin would run off three consecutive birdies on 11, 12 and 13 to get to six-under-par and into a tie with Els and just two strokes of the lead. Tiger then did the almost unthinkable - he hit a very poor tee shot on the par-5 13th hole and was forced to lay up. He then hit his approach shot into the back bunker and needed to make a five foot putt just to save par. Tiger would then three-putt on the par-3 14th hole for a bogey, falling to seven-under-par. Suddenly, we had a tournament - or so it seemed. After giving himself a little talk, Tiger again righted the ship, hitting his second shot on the 15th to within 12 feet. He would drain the birdie putt and Austin and Els would get no closer. Austin's last chance came on the 18th hole, but his tee shot went way right. He was very lucky just to save par, but in doing so he was able to secure second place by himself. Woods again would be all about hitting fairways and greens... he parred the final three holes, raising his arms in triumph as he holed out a three foot putt on 18 to secure the win. With the victory, he now sits only five majors behind the great Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. Congrats to Tiger on yet another incredbile accomplishment!


A couple of baseball notes in closing today... Did any of you happen to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks game at home against the Washington Nationals yesterday??? The Diamondbacks seemed to have things under control as they quickly jumped to a 5-0 lead over the Nats and starter Mike Bacsik. The D-Backs attack was led by MVP candidate Eric Byrnes, who hit his 18th homer of the year. Through seven innings, the Nats would only tally a single run off of D-Backs starter Micah Owings - an RBI single by Jesus Flores scored Ronnie Belliard in the 5th inning. As we all know now though (and the league is beginning to find out), you can't ever count the resilient Nats out of a game. The Nats would rally in the top of the 8th off of reliever Tony Pena. The resurgent Felipe Lopez led off with a walk, then Ryan Zimmerman tripled him home to narrow the gap to 5-2. Austin Kearns would then single in Zimmerman and the margin was now just two. Pena was pulled for Doug Slaten. This proved to be a bad move as Ryan Church clubbed a pitch deep into the right field seats for a two-run homer, tying the game at 5. The usually reliable Jon Rauch would pitch the bottom of the eighth for the Nats and would give up singles to rookie Justin Upton and Mike Reynolds. Upton would then score on a Stephen Drew sacrifice fly to give the D-Backs a 6-5 lead. The Nats weren't done though. Not by a longshot! Jesus Flores curled a pitch just inside the left-field foul pole and into the Arizona bullpen to tie the game off of closer Jose Valverde. Robert Fick would then triple and later scored on a Felipe Lopez sacrifice fly. The Nats took a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth and handed things over to "the Chief." Chad Cordero came in and quickly retired Chris Young and Orlando Hudson. It seemed obvious that "the Chief" wanted nothing to do with the next batter, Eric Byrnes (a wise move in my opinion). He walked on five pitches. Chad Tracy then hit a harmless fly to right center to end the game. Rauch was credited with his eighth win of the year - that's pretty valuable if you have him on your fantasy team... Cordero recorded his 26th save. The Nats now go home where they begin a three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night.


The last game of the night was the nationally televised game between the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. The ageless Jamie Moyer pitched an effective six and a third innings for the Phiillies, giving up three runs... Ryan Howard powered the Phillies attack, clubbing a three-run-homer (his 33rd of the year) off of Braves starter Buddy Carlyle in the 5th inning to erase a 2-1 Braves lead. The Braves were actually very fortunate to be leading at that point as right-fielder Jeff Francoeur almost single-handedly kept them in front, throwing out two runners at the plate for his league leading 16th and 17th assists of the season. I'm not sure why people continue to try to test Francoeur's arm - he now has 30 assists in his career... Perhaps someday soon, the league will start respecting his arm the way that they respect the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero's. As for the rest of the game, each team scored a single run in the 7th inning. Brett Myers closed things out for his ninth save of the year as the Phillies would win 5-3.


Speaking of the Angels, they have really turned things around the past week thanks to some surprising power from two speedsters... Maicer Izturis had hit only his 4th and 5th homers of the year in each of their previous two home triumphs over the Minnesota Twins. Yesterday, it was Chone Figgins' turn to turn on the power. In the bottom of the 6th inning, "Figgy" hit only his second homer of the year (a two-run shot) to knock out Twins starter Boof Bonser to give the Halos a 5-1 lead. Jered Weaver pitched a strong 7 1/3 innings, allowing only two runs on five hits, walking none and striking out four to pick up his eighth win of the year. Justin Speier closed things out with 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball. The Angels were very fortunate this series as they missed Twins ace Johan Santana (who is scheduled to pitch tonight). The win keeps the Angels 3 1/2 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners in the AL West race. They now fly to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays and their ace, Roy Halladay tomorrow night.


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