Advertisement

Woods Reaches Amateur Final : Golf: Cypress 18-year-old could become youngest champion in U.S. tournament’s 94-year history with victory today against Kuehne.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tiger Woods of Cypress is balancing on the edge of history in the U.S. Amateur, which has him overcome with indifference.

Potential for becoming the youngest champion in the tournament’s 94-year history, replacing 19-year-olds Louis James (1902), Robert Gardner (1909), Jack Nicklaus (1959), Bruce Fleisher (1968) and Nathaniel Crosby (1981)?

Doesn’t matter.

Possibly joining Bobby Smith and Carolyn Cudone as the only golfers to win U.S. Golf Assn. titles in four consecutive years? Didn’t know. Probably doesn’t care.

Advertisement

Records, say this well-seasoned 18-year-old, merely are the product of playing good golf. And playing good golf is all that consumes him going into today’s 36-hole final against Trip Kuehne of Oklahoma City at The Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Kuehne, of McKinney, Tex., beat his Oklahoma State teammate and close friend, Kris Cox, 1-up in the other semifinal.

“It isn’t the same as when I won the U.S. Junior Amateur the first time. . . It doesn’t matter,” said Woods, who won the first of three consecutive Junior Amateur titles at 15. “That’s the product of playing good golf. The first thing you’ve got to do is take care of business. If the record falls, whatever. What matters is I’ve got to do what I need to do.”

Which is exactly what he has done through the week. Make that the entire year. His 5 and 3 victory over Kent State All-American Eric Frishette of Carroll, Ohio, was his 18th match play victory of the year against only one loss.

Advertisement

After a sluggish start, which saw him continue his ability to save pars from off the greens, Woods took control of the match with a run of four birdies over six holes. It started on the par-4 sixth. By the time he birdied the par-5 11th, Woods was 4-up.

Frishette had early opportunities, but unlike Woods, his putting finally abandoned him.

“I think I had a chance to get up on him early, but I didn’t make any putts,” said Frishette, 22, who plans to try the PGA Tour qualifying this fall. “If you’re not making any putts, it’s hard to stay with him. He hit me with a birdie run there.”

Frishette was particularly impressed by Woods’ distance off the tee, saying he “just overpowered the golf course today.”

Advertisement

Two examples came on the par 5s, the 582-yard 9th and the 529-yard 11th.

No. 9 rarely has been reached by the touring pros at TPC; the last to do so was Steve Elkington when he won in 1991. Saturday, Woods had 283 yards to the hole and cut a three-wood just in front of the green, setting up an easy chip and putt.

“I could have gotten there by drawing the ball, but I didn’t want to risk pulling the ball into the trees,” Woods said.

His other Herculean feat was hitting a 3-iron from 235 yards pin high on No. 11, 20 feet away.

Advertisement

“Right now I feel pretty confident about my game,” Woods said. “I’ve learned how to manage my mistakes a little more. Basically, I’ve grown up.”

But not to the point of worrying about records.


Advertisement