7,366 yards – Par 72 Dublin, Ohio June 4-7, 2009 Woods silences critics with thrilling comeback victory Tiger Woods hit all 14 fairways in dramatic fi nal-round comeback at the Memorial Tournament that erased any doubts that he can close a tournament on his surgically repaired knee and left his fi nal-round playing partner shaking his head. “I don’t know how to describe it,” said Michael Letzig who played the fi nal round with Woods. “It was the best golf I have ever seen. I’ve never seen anyone hit irons like that. I tried not to watch him, but some of those shots were unreal.” Letzig had the best view of a stunning performance – even by Woods’ lofty standards – that had the sun-baked Memorial patrons buzzing even as they departed the Muirfi eld Village Golf Club. His fi nal-round 7-under-par 65 put Woods at 12-under for the tournament, one stroke ahead of runnerup Jim Furyk. Starting the fi nal round four strokes behind leaders Matt Bettencourt and Mark Wilson, Woods birdied four of his fi rst seven holes and left the fi nal group in his dust (and without much of a gallery) with an eagle chip from the deep rough on the par-5 11th. After a his second bogey of the day on the par-3 16th dropped him into a tie with Jim Furyk, Jonathan Byrd and Davis Love III, Woods took back the lead with a birdie on No. 17 and slammed the door with a 7-iron from 183 yards on No. 18 that stopped a foot from the hole. Woods, who concurred with tournament host Jack Nicklaus’ pre-tournament assessment that he is still recovering from knee surgery over the winter, showed that he is mostly – if not all the way – back to his presurgery form. “Worst thing you can do is stretch out the ligament right away,” Woods said before the tournament. “That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been able to hit balls as far as I normally do, but that’s coming. Each week I am able to hit a little bit longer. Just a little longer before I’m able to get all of that back.” Woods said he has been improving all year and was able to put all aspects of his game together at the Memorial. “I knew I could do this,” Woods said. “It’s just a matter of give me a little bit of time. I just came off of a pretty extended break, and I was close to winning, but the game wasn’t quite there when I really needed it on Sunday. I rectifi ed that.” The win was the 67th in 243 career PGA Tour starts for Woods. He became the fi rst person with four Memorial Tournament victories (1999-2001 and 2009), breaking a tie with Kenny Perry, who won his third Memorial last year. The fi nal round was the fi rst time since the second round of the 2003 Arnold Palmer Invitational that he failed to miss a fairway. For the tournament, Woods was 49 of 56 in fairways hit. “People said, ‘You know, you’re not that good anymore,’” Woods said. “I’m pretty consistent. Just give me a little bit of time so I can work on my game. Now I’m able to start doing that. Able to work on the things … I take so much joy out of practicing. That was the hardest part. I wasn’t able to practice the way I used to. I usually hit a lot of golf balls, play a lot of holes, but I wasn’t able to do that. Now I’m able to start doing that again.” Players like Furyk know that the numbers Woods is putting up while working back into form signals trouble for them in the future. “I just wish you all would just quit (ticking) him off … so he has to come back and keep proving stuff,” Furyk said. “I think he answered a lot of questions today.” Dublin’s Chris Wilson gets Memorial invite When Ohio’s Golf last talked with Dublin Coffman grad Chris Wilson in March, he was hoping to receive an invitation to play in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course, July 30-August 2. The Hooters Tour regular who had yet to play in a Nationwide or PGA Tour event did one better, earning a sponsor exemption into the Memorial Tournament field. “I didn’t believe it at first,” Wilson told Ohio’s Golf. “Then I was super excited. Coming to this tournament was something I have always dreamed of.” Wilson shot a disappointing 79-77—156 and missed the cut, but overall his first PGA Tour appearance was a positive one. “It was a great first experience and to do it right outside my backdoor, you can’t beat that,” Wilson said. “I didn’t play anywhere near how I am capable of playing. Out here you make a few errant swings and it will hit you really hard and really fast on this golf course. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited and ready to go.” Wilson said the experience will help him on the Hooters Tour and as he works to achieve his goal of earning full-time status on the PGA Tour. “I learned that when I am playing well and I have my best game I can play out here with these guys, it was just a few putts here and there and a few swings here and there.” Wilson’s first tournament after the Memorial was a T-22 finish at the Hooters Buffalo Run Casino Classic, June 15-21 in Miami, Okla. It was his third top-25 finish in six events this season on the Hooters Pro Tour. In February he captured his first championship as a professional in the final event of the Hooters Tour’s Bridgestone Winter Series at Stoneybrook West Golf Club in Winter Garden, Fla. Before his trip to Oklahoma, Wilson’s golf season took a brief detour. He was scheduled to have his wisdom teeth removed the week following the Memorial. Asked to compare getting his wisdom teeth removed to the downhill chip he had on his final hole of the tournament, Wilson humorously summed up the challenge of being out of position on the dry Muirfield greens. “The chip was impossible,” Wilson said of his shortsided shot on No. 18 that yielded a bogey. “Wisdom teeth is doable. The chip was impossible.” Other Ohioans in the field Ostrander native Ben Curtis woke up on Sunday with a chance to surpass his careerbest T-8 finish in the Memorial. By the time he packed his clubs that afternoon, he had slid from 21st to T-41 on the leader board. Playing for the seventh time in Jack’s tournament, Curtis began his final round at 2-under par, three strokes back of Woods and seven behind third-round leaders Bettencourt and Wilson. His final-round 77 included two double bogeys in a 5-over par back nine. His final line: 71-71-72- 77—291 (+3). On the year, Curtis has made 11 cuts in 12 PGA Tour appearances, but has only two top-25 finishes. Jason Duffner rebounded from an opening-round 77 with a 73 in round two. But it was not enough for Duffner, who missed the cut by two strokes. The missed cut was only his third in 15 events this year. Duffner, who was born in Cleveland and played collegiately at Auburn, has four top-10 finishes this year and has already surpassed $1 million in earnings. Woods wins at skins, too The pre-tournament Memorial Skins Game to benefit The First Tee drew at least as much attention and fan Excitement as the tournament itself. The event was a rare opportunity for the public to see Jack Nicklaus back on the course, and it was the first time Nicklaus and Woods have played together since their pairing at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. Woods captured the most skins (six) in the two foursomes, and Nicklaus pocketed $8,000 and two skins with a birdie on the par-5 11th hole. Even though Nicklaus doesn’t play much golf these days, Woods said he is still as competitive as ever. “He’s a competitor,” Woods said. “Anyone who has ever played the game at the highest level wants to come out and give it their best. You could see it on certain holes, certain shots, him kind of revert back to the old Jack. It was neat to see. I hadn’t seen it since 2000.” Nicklaus concurred with Woods’ assessment. “I don’t care if I’m playing with my wife, my competitive juices flow,” he said. “That’s just me.” The event was a nine-hole format that started on No. 10, with two foursomes each battling for $50,000 in skins to benefit charity. The players each wore wireless microphones so the crowd and the viewers on Golf Channel could hear their banter. A large crowd followed the players despite a brisk wind and driving rain that arrived at the beginning of the event and left many of the fans, especially those in shorts, shivering. The foul weather didn’t help the tournament founder, who struggled to match the distance of the three touring pros in his group. “I had three par 4s that I couldn’t reach today,” Nicklaus said. “But that’s okay. I know what I am now. That’s why I don’t play golf anymore. But I really had a blast today.” The two legends played in the second group with Stewart Cink (one skin for $5000) and Kenny Perry (no skins). Their opening act included Padraig Harrington, who won three skins for $23,000, Camilo Villegas (four skins for $17,000), Vijay Singh (two skins and $10,000) and Jim Furyk, who was shut out. Woods said it was a treat to play competitively with Nicklaus, something that is unique to golf. “Our sport is different in that way,” Woods said. “The guys from past generations, not just one generation removed, but a few, can still compete, can still play out here. Not at the highest levels, but for nine holes, a few holes, they can certainly play with us, and even beat us. That is one of the neat things about the game of golf. It’s the only sport that I know of where people can do that.” Honorees One of the special touches that makes the Memorial unique is the pre-tournament ceremony that recognizes individuals, living and dead, who have contributed to the game of golf. The 52 honorees are memorialized with a plaque in Memorial Park next to the first hole. This year’s honorees were JoAnne Carner and Jack Burke, Jr. Carner had a storied amateur career before turning professional at age 30. In her hall-of-fame professional career she won 43 LPGA Tour titles, eighthmost in history, and averaged more than 10 events a season into her 60s. At the 2004 Kraft Nabisco, she became the oldest player at age 64 to make a cut in a major. Now 70, Carner continues to compete in several of the women’s senior events held throughout the country each year. Jackie Burke, Jr. Won 17 times in his career, including the Masters and PGA Championship in 1956. In 1952, he won four tournaments in a row, and he played on five Ryder Cup teams, captained twice and hosted one at his own course, the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas. But the 86-year-old Burke is probably known as much for being a teacher and philosopher on golf who has touched many amateurs and professionals through the years. His pupils, including Hal Sutton, have referred to him as a gruff uncle with a heart of golf who teaches through experience and stories. At the end of the tournament, Nicklaus announced that the 2010 honoree will be Seve Ballesteros. Ballesteros, who won a record 50 times on the European tour, captured the British Open three times and the Masters twice. He was the youngest winner at Augusta until Woods captured the green jacket in 1997. Ballesteros has been battling cancer, but pledged to receive the award in person. If he does, it will be his first trip back to Muirfield Village since he won four points for the winning European side in the 1987 Ryder Cup. Nicklaus weighs in on Ohio State coach search It looks like Jack Nicklaus doesn’t always get his way when it comes to the Ohio State golf program. Nicklaus told Ohio’s Golf before the tournament that OH O’s GOLF he was supporting Ohio State assistant coach Brad Sparling to replace Jim Brown, who retired this year after 36 years as head coach. “Brownie is pushing for Brad and he asked me to push for Brad,” Nicklaus said. “I have had maybe 10 guys ask me to help them out with the Ohio State job, and I told them that I am supporting Brad because that is what Brownie asked me to do.” Ten days later Ohio State hired Oklahoma State assistant and Kent State alum Donnie Darr to serve as the program’s 10th head coach. What Curse? Bad weather has plagued the Memorial Tournament over the years, a condition that some people have half-jokingly attributed the “curse of Chief Leatherlips.” Chief Leatherlips, so named by white settlers because he never broke a promise, was a member of the Wyandot Indian tribe that roamed the area that is now Dublin. Muirfield Village was reportedly built on the tribe’s sacred burial ground. Leatherlips was executed in 1810 by members of his own tribe, reportedly for being too friendly with the white settlers. A plaque commemorating the event is located along the Scioto River, only a couple miles from the tournament site. Leatherlips cut the tournament a break this year. Miserable rainy and cold conditions pelted the skins game on Wednesday, but it was sunny and in the 80s the rest of the week. The only misery after Wednesday was experienced by players who were out of position on the greens that measured as much as 14.5 feet on the Stimpmeter. Do as I say One of the most offbeat stories of the week was the arrest of Ohio Department of Public Safety legislative director John W. Lang Jr., after he allegedly become intoxicated and scuffled with police officers during the opening round of the tournament. Lang, who lobbied on behalf of the department for legislation to toughen Ohio’s drunk driving laws, was charged with persistent disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Lang’s driving record reflects three DUI-related arrests, most recently on Feb. 9 in Grandview Heights. In that incident, a police officer said she found Lang asleep at the wheel of his car, which was parked the wrong way on a Grandview Heights street with its headlights on and engine running. He refused a breath test and the officer charged him with physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which is pending in Franklin County Municipal Court. Court records show that Lang previously was charged twice with DUI. He was arrested in Columbus in 2000 and in Butler County in 2004, when he lost his driver’s license for nearly six months for refusing a breath test. He was convicted in each case of a lesser charge of willful and wanton disregard of public safety. Contacted by Ohio’s Golf, Department of Public Safety spokesman Thomas Hunter said that the department’s director, Henry Guzmaìn, was aware of Lang’s previous run-ins with the law. Hunter noted that Lang had not previously been convicted of drunk driving. Lang resigned his position the day after his arrest at the Memorial Tournament. Memorial Facts – • Woods has now won 19 of his last 35 starts on the PGA Tour (54 percent), dating to the 2006 British Open. • Woods has made the cut in all 11 starts at the Memorial, with seven top-4 finishes. Defending champion Kenny Perry made his 16th consecutive cut this year and finished T-27 at even par (72-73- 75-68—288). Scott Hoch has the record for making the most consecutive cuts at the Memorial (17) from 1981-1997. • Dating to 1991, this year’s 73.425 scoring average was the second highest at the Memorial, trailing only last year’s 74.397. The 2.397-over par average last year made Muirfield the 5th toughest course on the PGA Tour in 2008. • The Memorial Tournament has the distinction of having the longest active playoff drought on the PGA Tour. The tournament has not had a playoff since 1992, when David Edwards defeated Rick Fehr with a par on the second playoff hole. By Eric Poklar Ohio’s Golf Senior Writer
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