Tiger's Only Mistake: A Breakdown In Etiquette At No. 9

Sunday, September 16th 2007, 6:44 pm
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Zach Johnson and Sergia Garcia were finishing out the ninth hole at East Lake when someone else's ball came skidding through the green.

Guess who was too strong for his own good? Tiger Woods.

On his way to a dominating eight-stroke win in the Tour Championship, Woods also violated one of golf's basic no-no's Sunday by hitting into the group ahead of him.

It happened at the par-5 ninth to the penultimate twosome. Garcia needed extra time after knocking his second shot into the adjacent first fairway. Johnson also took three shots to reach the green on the 600-yard hole.

Coming up right behind them was Woods, whose booming drive still left him 286 yards from the flag. He went ahead and played his second shot with a 5-wood, aiming for a bunker. Instead, he wound up reaching the green that Garcia and Johnson were still playing.

``Obviously, he didn't think he'd be able to get it there,'' said Garcia, who salvaged a par. ``Somehow he did. It was no big deal.''

It appeared to affect Johnson, who three-putted from 29 feet for a bogey at a hole that provided plenty of birdies. But he dismissed the breakdown in etiquette.

``I had no idea whose ball it was,'' said Johnson, who tied for second with Mark Calcavecchia. ``I figured it was Tiger's. But it didn't get to me. I just lost my focus a little bit.''

Woods apologized to Garcia and Johnson.

``I didn't think I could hit it that far,'' the winner said.


STRICKER'S SEASON: Steve Stricker closed out his surprising season by finishing second in the FedEx Cup, edging Phil Mickelson for the runner-up spot.

Stricker closed with a 3-under 67, though a mediocre third round (71) ended any hopes of claiming the $10 million prize.

``I wish I had given myself a better chance,'' Stricker said. ``I just couldn't get the putter going.''

All in all, though, it was a remarkable year for a player who lost his card two years ago and came into this season with just over $10 million in career earnings. He played in the final group of a major for the first time at the British Open, and has top-10 finishes in the first three events of the PGA Tour Playoffs.

He tied for 17th among 30 players at the Tour Championship.

``Overall, I'm just elated with the year I had,'' Stricker said. ``I feel like I'm a much more confident player. I'm striking the ball better. I'm more aggressive.''

But it won't change his lifestyle. After the Presidents Cup, he'll spend the winter at his home in Wisconsin, getting in some bow hunting with friends and probably taking a few practice swings in the snow.

``In December,'' he said, ``I'll be out there hitting a few.''


SHAKY PUTTER: Mark Calcavecchia knew his odds of catching Tiger Woods were slim to begin with _ and he had no chance when the putter faltered.

Calcavecchia, who started the final round three shots back, wound up eight behind in a tie for second after closing with a 1-over 71.

After starting with a birdie, Calcavecchia's putting woes began when he missed a 6-footer to save par at the par-3 second. Woods also lipped out a short putt, leaving his lead at two strokes.

Woods made his first birdie at No. 6, but Calcavacchia had a chance to get it back when he stood over a 4-footer at the next hole. But the ball skidded by the cup and he settled for par, which turned out to be his final gasp.

Woods responded with two straight birdies, made the turn with a four-shot lead and steadily pulled away. When Calcavacchia missed a 5-foot birdie try at No. 16, he tossed his putter toward the bag in disgust.

Still, he had no complaints about where he finished in the elite field.

``I had no expectations coming in here,'' Calcavecchia said. ``I was clearly the favorite to finish 30th this week, and tying for second in pretty good.''


GEORGIA ON HIS MIND: Zach Johnson might want to lobby to play all PGA Tour events in the state of Georgia.

In April, he claimed his first major at the Masters. A month after his Augusta triumph, he won the AT&T Classic in suburban Atlanta. Finally, he tied for second in the Tour Championship, not far from downtown Atlanta at East Lake Golf Club.

``Georgia has been awfully kind to me,'' Johnson said. ``I'm very, very thankful.''


LEFTY'S WOES: Phil Mickelson's up-and-down year took another dip in the wrong direction at East Lake.

Lefty shot 70 and 71 on the weekend, even though the course was set up to go low. He wound up 20th, a staggering 18 strokes behind winner Tiger Woods.

Asked how he played, Mickelson replied, ``Oh, not so great.''

He had a chance to claim the inaugural FedEx Cup but never seriously challenged Woods' grip on the mammoth prize. In a sense, that epitomized Mickelson's year.

He won three times. He lost twice in playoffs. But he went through June and July without cashing a paycheck, missing the cut at the both the U.S. and British Opens.

``It's hard for me to grade my year, because I've had such highs and such lows,'' Mickelson said. ``It's something I'm going to get to address in the offseason and try to get back to being a little more consistent and having opportunities to win.''


STAT OF THE DAY: East Lake finally toughened up on the final day. For the first time all week, the course played over par at 70.167. The first three rounds averaged less than 68.