Despite sore ribs, Tiger Woods birdied seven of his first 12 holes, then relied on Jim Furyk to make the decisive birdie that delivered the world’s No. 1 player his first victory Friday in a better-ball match, a victory the Americans desperately needed in the Presidents Cup at Gainesville, Va.
The International team, trailing in only one match at the turn, got more great play from Retief Goosen and Adam Scott to keep their slim lead after two sessions, 6 1/2 -5 1/2 .
It looked like it might be an even larger lead until Scott Verplank and Justin Leonard rallied to win their match and remain undefeated, and Michael Campbell and Vijay Singh failed to capitalize on opportunities at the 18th hole, both of them settling for halves.
Campbell’s wedge to the 18th hit the pin and rolled back into the rough, then his belly wedge rimmed in and out.
Singh, playing with Tim Clark, hit a wedge shot to within three feet for birdie on the 17th to square their match, then had a chance to beat Fred Funk and Stewart Cink when he hit a towering shot out of the rough to 15 feet. But the birdie putt dipped well below the cup for a halve.
The crowd warmed to the action, especially after a 1 1/2 -hour storm delay as all the matches were on the back nine. The fans were far more vocal in the afternoon. Loud cheers rang out at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, with only murmurs and grudging applause whenever the International team made a putt.
Some even cheered when Campbell missed an eight-foot birdie putt to stay 1 up on the 17th hole.
“That’s all part of the game over here in America,” the New Zealander said. “A guy said to me over the putt, ‘Miss the putt.’ It’s pretty unfair. But once again, it’s actually a good thing for me personally. It really keeps me going.”
It fired up the Americans too, especially after they struggled just to stay in the match.
Even so, U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus was disturbed by a gallery that ignored the International team, and even spoke to the fans at one point.
“I said, ‘Hey guys, you can root if you want to for the American team, I think that’s fine, but when the International team hits a good shot, I think they deserve a round of applause in appreciation.’ Nick O’Hern hit about a 25-footer and you could almost hear a pin drop. I didn’t like that at all.”
O’Hern and Peter Lonard easily beat Davis Love III and Kenny Perry, 3-2, leaving that American team 0-2.
Woods and Furyk were the last match out, mostly to give Furyk time to heal his sore ribs. When he arrived on the first tee, Nicklaus checked on his health, and Furyk waved both hands at him to signal he was fine.
Turns out it was Woods who was hurt. The spasms started on the sixth hole, when he hit a shot and his knees buckled. He said it was part of his ribs, which affected his upper back, and it had been bothering him all week.
Dean Wilson shot an eight-under-par 62 to take the lead at the Texas Open in San Antonio, and David Duval made his first 36-hole cut this year.
Wilson, best known for playing with Annika Sorenstam at the 2003 Colonial, had a 12-under 128 total after two rounds at the LaCantera Golf Club, one stroke in front of Jeff Maggert and John Senden and nine in front of Duval, the world’s former No. 1 player who had missed 18 straight cuts and broken par only once this year before shooting a one-under 69 on Thursday.
“It was a cycle that needed to be broken,” said Duval, whose previous cut was in the Michelin Championship last October. “I’ve been number one and number 1,000, but I’ve hit bottom and I’m coming back up.”
Mike McCullough won the Georgia-Pacific Grand Champions Championship at Atlanta, shooting a bogey-free seven-under 65 for a two-stroke victory over Bruce Summerhays in the unofficial Champions Tour event for players 60 and over.
“I didn’t hit a lot of good shots today, but I continued to persevere and mentally stay in the game,” said McCullough, 60. “I kept everything in control and didn’t get ahead of myself. It’s pretty special to win a tournament like this.”
McCullough had an 11-under 133 total on the Hawks Ridge Golf Club. He earned $85,000 from the $400,000 purse.
Summerhays finished with a 70. Tom Wargo (63), Raymond Floyd (69) and John Jacobs (69) tied for third at eight under.
Britain-Ireland won the second set of fourball matches, 3-2, cutting Continental Europe’s lead to 6-4 after two days of the Seve Trophy at Billingham, England.
Colin Montgomerie and Graeme McDowell lost, 3 and 2, to Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson, and Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd lost by two holes to Maarten Lafeber and Emanuele Canonica.
However, the three other Britain-Ireland pairings, containing a total of five players from Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning team, won their matches.
Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley beat Niklas Fasth and Peter Hanson, 3 and 1, David Howell and Paul Casey beat Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez, 5 and 4, and Ian Poulter and Nick Dougherty beat Jean-Francois Remesy and Thomas Levet, 5 and 4.