Tiger Woods Advances to Quarters at U.S. Amateur
CORNELIUS, Ore. (AP) _ Tiger Woods doesn’t have his game quite in high gear. But he thinks he’s close. And that’s got to be a pretty scary concept for the other seven guys still alive in the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Woods, awesome as always but not as sharp as he can be, advanced to today’s quarterfinals by downing Jerry Courville and Charles Howell on Thursday, playing sloppy in both matches early, but finally wearing down his opponents with his nearly unbelievable length.
Woods won his second-round match 4 and 2 over Courville, a 37-year-old veteran of amateur tournaments, breaking open an even contest by winning three consecutive holes beginning at No. 12.
Then Woods advanced to the quarterfinals in the afternoon with a 3 and 1 victory over Charles Howell, a 17-year-old from Augusta, Ga. _ home of the Masters _ who was the first of Woods’ 19 opponents in U.S. Amateur competition younger than Woods.
``I figured out some things about my game,″ Woods said after winning his two matches on Thursday. Asked what it was, he said: ``I’m not telling.″
But a key person close to Woods said his stance had been too narrow and that he needed to widen it because his swing is so steep.
Whatever Woods figured out, he was simply too good for Courville and Howell, even though he gave them every chance to steal the match.
Woods faces D.A. Points, a 19-year-old LSU student, in the quarterfinals. Points defeated Randy Leen 3 and 2 to advance.
Also advancing to the final eight was Joel Kribel, who defeated Paul Simson 4 and 3. Robert Floyd, son of Raymond Floyd, moved on 1-up over Jason Enloe. Duke Delcher won in 19 holes over Richard Barbles, while Steve Scott defeated Kelly Miller 3 and 2.
Buddy Marucci, who lost to Woods in last year’s finals and could face him in the finals again this year, defeated Eric Moehling 4 and 2. Bryan Novoa downed Chris Wollmann 1-up.
Delcher at 40 and Marucci at 44 are the only quarterfinalists who could make Woods feel like a kid. Points, Kribel and Scott are 19 and Floyd is 20. Novoa is 21.
``I feel very positive with the way I’m hitting it,″ Woods said. ``I’m putting much better and I’m managing my game very well.″
In both matches on Thursday, Woods simply wore down his opponents by routinely driving the ball more than 320 yards and hitting short irons to greens while his playing partners hit long irons.
For Woods, who is now 17-2 in the U.S. Amateur, three was the magic number.
He needs three more victories to get his third consecutive U.S. Amateur Championship. And in all three of his matches this week he turned it around on No. 8.
Woods got off to a slow start on the dew-covered Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge at 7:15 a.m. He bogeyed three of the first seven holes and was 1-down to Courville until he rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 8 to even the match.
He followed that with a 343-yard drive on No. 9 and a 353-yard drive on No. 11.
The key came on the 12th hole when the match was still tied. Woods missed the green, but Courville followed by hitting into the water on the par-3.
That started a run of three consecutive holes won by Woods, and Courville conceded the match on No. 16.
Howell, a 130-pound high school senior whose baby face could barely be seen behind his glasses and ``No Fear″ hat pulled down tight over his sandy hair, knocked it to 4 feet on the first hole, but missed the birdie putt and lost the next hole to a Woods’ birdie.
But as he stepped to the eighth tee, he found himself even with Woods, thanks to a ball Woods slapped into the water on No. 6.
For the third consecutive match, Woods won the eighth hole. Making birdie against J.D. Manning and Courville all Woods needed this time was a par after Howell snap-hooked his drive into a tree.
Again, it pumped up Woods. He drove 350 yards on No. 9 and hit it 313 into the wind on No. 11 and then hit a 2-iron 235-yards into the wind and onto the green.
Woods got to 2-up when Howell bogeyed No. 12 from the bunker and went to 3-up with a 12-foot birdie on No. 13.
``Well, I didn’t lose 10 and 8, so I’m happy,″ Howell said. ``I knew I would have to play real, real good to beat him and I didn’t play good enough to beat Tiger Woods.″
The question now is if anyone can play well enough to beat Tiger Woods. No one has for three years.
CHIP SHOTS: As usual, Woods was followed by his father Earl and his mother Kultida. Kultida walks inside the gallery ropes with the players while Earl walks with the crowds. ``He walks too slow,″ Kultida said, adding with a huge smile: ``Remember, I taught Tiger everything he knows.″ ... Back in the Woods’ gallery Thursday after a one-day absence was Nike CEO Phil Knight. ... Charles Howell has every shot to be a force in the future. ``He’s always been a tough competitor, ″ said Howell’s father, also named Charles. ``He has a good game and I paid plenty for it,″ the pediatric surgeon said jokingly about his son’s golf lessons. ... Howell proved toughness at the Amateur. He won his first match in 24 holes, coming back from 2-down with two to play. Then he won his second round match 1-up, making a birdie out of the bunker on the last hole.