USGA Skirted Dilemma at U.S. Open

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 28, 2007

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C., June 27 -- We'll never know what would have happened if Tiger Woods had made one more birdie down the stretch of the U.S. Open to tie Angel Cabrera and force an 18-hole playoff the next day that would have started about 10 hours after Woods's wife, Elin Nordegren, gave birth to the couple's first child.

Woods finished second at Oakmont two weeks ago in the Pittsburgh suburbs and flew home to Orlando that night in time for the delivery of his daughter, Sam Alexis, who was born early Monday morning. Woods had said he would leave a tournament immediately if his wife went into labor, even if he happened to be in contention, majors included.

If there had been a playoff, he would have been in Pittsburgh, likely asleep, when the call came. It has always been assumed that if one of the players doesn't show up at the first tee for an Open playoff, no matter the reason, the player who does is declared the champion.

Apparently, that's not necessarily so.

On Wednesday, U.S. Golf Association Executive Director David Fay said it was not that simple, and that the USGA would have faced a dilemma had Woods been unable to play on Monday.

The organization faced the same potential scenario at the U.S. Open in 1999, when Phil Mickelson's wife, Amy, was in the final stages of her pregnancy. She also delivered their child on the Monday after that Open. Mickelson missed a playoff by a shot in a tournament won by Payne Stewart, and like Woods, also had said he would leave the Open at the first indication his wife was ready to deliver.

"I really don't know what we'd do," Fay said. "I'll hide behind the fact that it's a hypothetical. But I suspect that [if their opponent didn't show up] Angel [Cabrera] and Payne [Stewart] probably would have said, 'I'm not going to show up for the playoff either.'

"That would have forced our hand. And I can tell you we would not have said, 'We're not going to have an Open champion this year.' The good news is that it didn't happen. And the most important thing is that Sam Alexis is doing fine."

While neither Fay nor anyone else in the USGA was publicly prepared to say what might have happened, it seems likely an 18- or even 36-hole playoff would have been arranged.

There will be no such problem here at Pine Needles this week at the U.S. Women's Open.

A year after the anticlimactic 18-hole Monday playoff between eventual champion Annika Sorenstam and runner-up Pat Hurst at the Newport (R.I.) Country Club, for the first time the USGA will have a three-hole, aggregate score playoff on Sunday evening if there is a tie at the end of 72 holes. The player with the best total score after three holes -- Nos. 16, 17 and 18 -- will win. If the players are still tied, they'll go back to No. 16 and begin a sudden-death playoff.

Fay said Wednesday the men's Open will continue the 18-hole playoff because "there is no feeling at this time to change that format. It's a very subjective opinion. We concluded that we wanted the women's Open, if at all possible, to finish on a Sunday. Why don't we have that for the [men's] U.S. Open? We're not there yet. I won't say . . . it will never happen. But we're not there."

Chantilly Pro Punches Major Ticket

John O'Leary, the teaching professional at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Chantilly, finished tied for sixth place last weekend in the PGA of America's Professional National Championship and earned one of 20 spots in the PGA Championship Aug. 9-12 at Southern Hills in Tulsa.

O'Leary played in the last group on Sunday at the Sunriver Resort in Oregon and was only a shot behind going into the final round, but four bogeys in his last eight holes ended his chances for the title won by four strokes by Chip Sullivan, a teaching pro from the Roanoke area and, like O'Leary, a member of the Middle Atlantic PGA section.

Brendan Post, a teaching pro from Gaithersburg, and his wife Patty, the Georgetown women's golf coach, became the first husband-wife duo to participate in the 40-year history of the tournament. Brendan made the cut and finished 65th. Patty was 1 over for her first 13 holes, but shot 76 and 81 and missed the cut.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company