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Sunday, June 15, 2008

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Fourth Round Action

by Ken Klavon   USGA

6:41 p.m.

Tiger's media center interview is up, just in case you want to know what he felt.

6:31 p.m.

Poor Rocco. What can you say? Another player victimized by the magic that is Tiger. In case you want to know what he said, here's a quick interview Rocco did with the media afterward.

Let's not forget Westwood. Again, if he only had that putt back on No. 13. Here's his interview.

The media center is buzzing. It will go down as one of the memorable sporting events I've been associated with.

6:18 p.m.

Funny, Phil Knight tried getting into the media center and was denied. Knight, of course, is from the well-known shoemaker company that signed Tiger to a bajillion dollars. Knight finally did get in.

OK, everyone can rest easy. I was able to change my flight. Seems many of them are sold out or full.

6 p.m.

A relieved Tiger looks like he's shaking. probably from the adrenaline. "[The putt] was a little wobbly," he said. "I played two balls outside right and I just stayed committed. I felt like I was playing 'Plinko.'"

I swear, this guy must have sold his soul to the devil. Can anyone be that good?

5:54 p.m.

And he makes it! The 'P' word. Tiger makes an unbelievable swirling putt that lips out and then drops. He does a major double fist pump. Never bet against Tiger, right?

Rocco looks dejected. "You can't root against him," said Mediate. "What can you do? I'm going to play against the No. 1 player on grass."

5:50 p.m.

Westwood has a 15-footer to tie. Rocco dodges a bullet. Westwood misses right by a foot. So close.

Now Tiger's turn. Has a 12-foot flagstick high. And the putter goes back ....

5:43 p.m.

Rocco is extremely nervous right now in the clubhouse. He's trying to watch but it's been difficult.

"I haven't been in this situation, ever, in a major," he stammered.

He admitted the 3-footer on 18 to close out his round was "as scary as I've ever had."

Asked if he thought about winning during his round he said, "When I birdied the second hole, I just told myself to keep putting the ball in the fairway. I obviously made some mistakes, had some misses."

5:34 p.m.

Think Westwood would like to have that 5-foot miss back on No. 13? He and Tiger head to No. 18, the par-5 finish, even par. It's not out of the realm of possibility for either to eagle. Mike Davis of the USGA was trying to create a Tin Cup scenario with the pond coming into play. But today's hole location is front right and the pond won't be much of a factor.

5:29 p.m.

Rocco on 18. Put his drive in the rough. Decided to lay up. Smart. Don't need another Mickelson moment. Had a chance to put it away with a 30-foot birdie but the downhill putt broke right a bit early. Tapped in. Rocco clubhouse leader at one under. Waiting on Tiger and Westwood now.

Meanwhile, D.J. Trahan put in a wonderful round. His day started to get away from him on the front, but then he got as low as one over. He's in the clubhouse two over.

"I just told myself every shot is an opportunity to do something great," said Trahan. "There's no reason to think you can't turn it around."

5:08 p.m.

Don't know how you feel, but coming down to the final three holes in a major with a bottlenecked leader board is as dramatic as it gets. Surprised to see Tiger bogey the par-4 15th with a missed 20-footer. Mediate still holding a one-stroke lead; he just narrowly missed carding an eagle on the par-4 17th. He nearly holed out his approach.

All this drama. I should have taken a vacation day.

5:01 p.m.

Not sure why people yell ther heads off after every shot. Tiger was just in the trampled rough on 13 and fans screamed when he chunked his approach that landed short of a greenside bunker.

3:52 p.m.

Uh oh, here comes Tiger. We've got a three-way tied for the lead. All have made the turn. And this is where Tiger normally separates himself because the last nine holes in a major ratchet up the anxiety. Comes down to who is mentally stronger. No, I'm not back on the Tiger bandwagon. I'm still unconvinced he's going to pull it out.

3:08 p.m.

Nice job by Michael Thompson, who will be low amateur at eight over for the championship.This kid is a true gentleman. He was the most gracious loser - and I don't mean that in a negative sense - after falling to Colt Knost in last year's U.S. Amateur. He's had quite a year, playing in the Masters and now the Open. When he came off 18, he said, "I learned that I have a lot more composure than I thought I did. I really, I never gave up this week and I'm very proud of that."

Well done.

2:29 p.m.

My early inclination is that Geoff Ogilvy may pull this out. Shades of Winged Foot. Let's analyze how silly this comment is about three hours from now.

2:23 p.m.

Today is by far the nicest day here. The last good day we've experienced was the day of the contest when it was cloudless and about 75. San Diego's June Gloom has been prevalent since then. But it's warm and sunny, so much so that I have broken a sweat. Not that you care. And if you do, I'll try to bore you with more innocuous comments - soon. OK, Mediate and Westwood tied at one under. Meanwhile, Tiger pouts. Clearly not happy with his swing.

1:56 p.m.

Decided to go follow Tiger's group. It's like a walk in the park. Note the sarcasm. There are so many media that follow him. It's a zoo.

Got there early enough to catch Rocco Mediate and Geoff Ogilvy. Prior to teeing off, fans in both grandstands started cheering, "Here we go Rocco, here we go!" He just smiled.

As he normally does, Tiger walked to the first teeing ground last. Don't know if it's an intimidation thing, but he always does it. He garners the most cheers by far of any golfer. He did grimace a bit on his drive off the first tee. However, that could have been from his brutal pull. The ball landed in the brown, trampled stuff far left, waaaay beyond the gallery ropes. His next two shots weren't much better. I thought he might pick up his ball and leave.

12:25 p.m.

Heads up, golf heads. The course is playing 7,280 yards today.

12:11 p.m.

Tiger Woods walked through the entrance gates to a grand showing. People are flocked all around just to catch a glimpse. Of course, he's wearing his power red shirt.

11:43 p.m.

I see NBC is showing the contest from a week ago. Well, more than a week ago now. It was a fun yet surreal event to cover. It was like watching four amateur baseball players go up against a Nolan Ryan fastball. But all of them held their own. Most moving to me was seeing John Atkinson's brother, Kevin, take the bag from caddie Bob Rotella on the 18th hole. John started to cry and the two walked hand in hand for a few minutes.

Saw Rocco Mediate on the practice putting area earlier. He looked as intense as I've ever seen Rocco look.

OK, so I'm going to be the salmon that swims upstream and say that Tiger, for the first time after leading a major for 54 holes, doesn't win. I know, I know, the mantra now is to never bet against Tiger. But I have to believe his knee isn't going to hold up to the grind on a final day. He was grimacing a lot Saturday. He's got such a torque on his swing that the downward angle twists the knee, putting it in an uncomfortable position.


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