Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 24 News List

Sandhills at Royal St. George's tests wits

BRITISH OPEN Davis Love III, the sole survivor to par, used a freak bounce and three clutch putts to build a two-shot lead. Tiger Woods fell four shots off the lead

AP , SANDWICH, ENGLAND

Sergio Garcia of Spain watches his tee shot on the 4th hole during the second day at the British Open at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Davis Love III saw his ball bouncing toward a creek and thought it was headed toward a double bogey. Instead, he made par.

Tiger Woods stood over a 3-foot putt, ready to sign for a par. Instead, he wrote down double bogey.

Just another British Open, where the humps and hollows of links golf tend to create all sorts of craziness.

US Open champion Jim Furyk? He missed the cut.

S.K. Ho, Hennie Otto and Marco Ruiz? They're heading to the weekend.

Par? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Davis Love III, the sole survivor to par at Royal St. George's, used a freak bounce and three clutch putts to build a two-shot lead Friday in the British Open.

Still, he spoke cautiously about heading into the weekend with 27 players -- Woods and defending champion Ernie Els among them -- within five shots of his lead.

"This is one that gets you focused on the task at hand," Love said after his 1-over 72. "It keeps you from thinking about other players. That's why this tournament is going to be so hard to win. It's not going to be just a golf shot, or a putting contest.

"It's going to be a big mental test."

Love passed the first two stages and was at 1-under 141, giving him his first lead on the weekend at a major since he won the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot.

No one is sure what to expect over the next two days, because nothing about Royal St. George's is ever as it seems.

Woods was closing in on the lead as he stood over a routine 3-footer for par on the 12th hole. Three putts later, he had a double bogey and staggered home to a 72, four shots out of the lead.

"I hit a lot of good shots, made a ton of putts," Woods said after a 72 left him four strokes behind. "I just had the one hole where I hit more putts than I should have."

Even more bizarre is what happened to Love.

Coming off back-to-back bogeys, his lead down to a single shot, Love's drive flared out to the right on the par-5 14th hole, toward a row of white posts with a creek called the Suez Canal on the other side.

The ball hopped hard to the right, nowhere to go but out of bounds, until it caromed off the 7cm wide post and back into play.

"We're all going to get crazy bounces," Love said. "But I think that was three good bounces all used up in one hole."

He made par instead of double bogey, the margin of his lead. It didn't make the next two days any easier.

Ho, a South Korean who plays on the Japan Tour, struggled down the stretch to a 73 and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark had a 70. They were at 143.

Three strokes behind were Sergio Garcia (71), Kenny Perry (70) and Thomas Levet (73), the Frenchman who lost to Ernie Els in a playoff at Muirfield last year.

As for the Big Easy? Don't count him out, either.

Els recovered from a 78 by giving himself birdie chances at every turn and finishing with a 68, the only guy to break 70. He was at 146, along with Phil Mickelson (72), Nick Price (72) and Fred Couples (75).

"At least I've got a chance now," Els said.

The sun baked fairways sent tee shots hopping all over the links. The pins were some of the toughest ever, tucked on slopes.

"It's right on the verge of being ridiculous," said Greg Norman, who started the day one shot out of the lead and shot 79, his worst score in 88 rounds at the British Open.

Love was at 4 under and leading by two shots when everything started to get away from him.

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