Sunday, June 03, 2001

Darkness halts Memorial


Woods two behind Azinger

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DUBLIN — Former Ohio State star Chris Smith woke up (7 over par), Paul Azinger again played magically (2 under par when darkness stopped play Saturday for a two-shot lead) and Tiger Woods (two-under and two back) lurks.

        Also tied with Woods at two back at the Memorial Tournament going into to day's final round is Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Australian Stuart Appleby.

        None of the leaders finished his round because of a late start caused by to rain and course maintenance. Northern Kentuckian Steve Flesch, however, did finish (71) and is five strokes off the lead.

        Play was suspended at 8:54 p.m. Saturday. It will resume at 8:30a.m. today. In parentheses is what hole the leaders had finished when the horn sounded: Azinger (14); Woods (14), Garcia (14) and Appleby (15).

        Stewart Cink, who like Flesch was able to finish his third round (5-under-par 67) and is only three back, might have an advantage by not having to play in the morning. He said he doesn't expect the the leaders to “come back to me.”

        “I can't control what (Woods) does, and I'm not going to go out there and try to stare him down” on the morning practice green, Cink said.

        Maybe he should.

        Woods is laying 15 feet away from eagle on No.15, and Garcia is just in front of him. If they make those putts, they're tied for the lead. And Azinger's going to hear it loud and clear, because he's standing on the 15th tee with a 3-wood in his

        hands when what he wants is his driver.

        How's that again?

        Azinger broke his driver twice Saturday: once on the driving range, 15 minutes before his tee time (he replaced it) and then he broke the replacement after his drive on No.6.

        Every Saturday-morning hacker can relate.

        He had not been pleased with his drive on No.5 or No.6, he said, and with one hand gripping the head of the driver and the other hand picking up his tee, he leaned on the clubhead for support as its grip-end burrowed into the tee-box turf. It wasn't as soft as Azinger thought.

        The shaft snapped.

        “I must have had an angle on it,” he said. “I was very shocked because I really wasn't that irritated. Disappointed, though.”

        Then, laughing, “I haven't missed a fairway since.”

        His three-wood was magic.

        “The only holes I would have used the driver on after that were 7 and 10 and 15 (today),” he said. “The three-wood doesn't go that much shorter than my driver. It's just one of those things that happened. I didn't mean for it to. It hasn't hurt me. It probably helped me.”

        Woods' start Saturday was scary-good, because the third and fifth holes had given him problems the first two days (he splashed balls on both holes in the first round), but he birdied them both Saturday. He shaved another stroke off par on No.7, but gave it back at 12.

        Azinger — who gave an emotional eulogy Wednesday to his late friend, Payne Stewart, who was this year's honoree at the Memorial Tournament — continues to say he doesn't believe in fate, the mystical or destiny.

        Yet, strange things keep happening to him: he entered this tournament coming off a six-week vacation, practiced only two days, had lousy focus until he got the eulogy out of the way, had two miserable days driving the ball but hit his irons like lasers (and like his friend, Stewart), saved a par on 18 Friday with a ridiculously good up-and-down (the ball spun back toward the hole when it landed, even though he didn't know the break was there) and then he broke his driver twice Saturday and never missed a fairway with his 3-wood.

        He can't start this morning's finish of the third round with a new driver in his bag — he'd probably only have used it on the par 5 15th hole, anyway — but he'll have a driver for the start of the final round.

        First, though, there's some business to tend to: 15-foot eagle putts for Woods and Garcia.

        “I will be dreaming about the break on 15, a little left to right,” Garcia said. “Hopefully I will dream I will make it.”

       



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