Sunday, June 22, 2003

Tiger falls six behind in Buick

Rain, lightning suspend third round

Enquirer news services

HARRISON, N.Y. - Tiger Woods playfully slapped a ball at Shigeki Maruyama's feet and planted himself next to leader Briny Baird on the driving range.

That was as close as the eight-time major champion got to Baird on Saturday in the rain-suspended third round of the Buick Classic.

Winless since late March, Woods had a bogey and six pars in seven holes before play was suspended, leaving him six strokes behind Baird - 11 under through six holes on the saturated Westchester Country Club course.

With more rain expected today on the course soaked by 8 inches of rain in the last three weeks, the event could finish on a Monday for the second time in three years.

Baird, the son of Champions Tour player Butch Baird, is trying to win for the first time in four seasons on the PGA Tour. He birdied the par-5 fifth hole to reach 11 under, putting him two strokes ahead of Skip Kendall. Joey Sindelar and Tom Gillis were 8 under.

Just making the cut at a PGA Tour event can be harrowing. But Kendall had a far more frightening cut May 27. Attempting to slice a frozen bagel as he prepared breakfast, Kendall accidentally cut off a portion of his left index finger instead. Weeks later, Kendall still has trouble believing it happened.

"It was kind of surreal," he said. "The bagel was cut in half, my finger was laying there, and it was like: 'No, I just didn't do that. That's not part of my finger, is it?' It took about 5, 10 seconds to register, then the blood started coming. That was not a pretty sight."

At least the story had a happy ending. A hand surgeon sewed the severed piece of his finger back on, using 16 stitches. Less than a month later, not only is Kendall playing, he is also in contention at the Buick Classic. Not only was Kendall on the leader board, but the finger injury also was having an unexpected benefit. Kendall has been forced to use a new grip because of lingering soreness in his finger, and the result is that he has found it almost impossible to hook the ball. That's a good thing.

"I can pull the ball left if I make a bad swing, but I've pretty much taken a hook out of the equation with this grip," he said. "In a way, it's kind of good."

Kendall was still wearing a bandage wrap over his injured finger, but he realized he was fortunate to be playing golf again so quickly. When he was hurt, his doctor told him it would be six weeks before he could touch a club.

"I told him he was crazy, although at the time it didn't look too good," Kendall said. "It was healing, but it looked horrible. I just figured it would heal faster."

He was correct.

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