Woods, Kim Tied for Lead Entering Final Round
Sunday, July 5, 2009
There are so many ways to think about what will happen this afternoon at Congressional Country Club, when Tiger Woods shakes the hand of Anthony Kim on the Blue Course's first tee, wishes him luck, and then goes for his throat. It will be golf's present against what Kim hopes is its future, the first time the two have played together in a PGA Tour event, the final round of the AT&T National with its dream pairing.
But the facts of the case -- that Woods, the tournament's host, and Kim, its defending champion, are both tied at 10-under-par 200 after three rounds -- can be moved aside, just for a moment, to consider the hopes and dreams of a little boy. So long ago, little Anthony Kim used to wait for his father to pick him up from the golf course. Back then, Kim would line up a 10-foot putt, imagining himself in the final group on Sunday, pretending Woods was standing off to the side, watching.
Sink it, and Kim would win, beating Woods. "Man, they were going in a lot," Kim said. Today, Woods will be watching for real. Will they go in again?
"A.K. can play," Woods said. "He really can. . . . As time has gone on, we've seen the talent. We've seen him grow as a player."
No stage in that growth can match what will happen today, not winning last year at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, not winning at Congressional last summer in a field that didn't include Woods. Those are, of course, notable and impressive accomplishments, and they are perhaps the two chief reasons those on tour believe Kim could become a factor in major championships. But this is different, and Kim seemed to know it. He entered yesterday trailing Woods by a pair of shots, fired a 2-under 68, and could hardly stop smiling at the mere thought of the prospect.
"I'm excited, to be honest with you," Kim said. "I'm excited to be there. I'm excited for the opportunity. There's not too many chances you get to play against the best in the world at his golf tournament. I've won this tournament before, and I don't see why I won't have a good opportunity tomorrow."
Well, let's see. What could prevent such a good opportunity from coming through? Ah, yes. Woods. Forty-eight times before this week, Woods has held at least a share of the lead going into the final round of a PGA Tour event. He has won 45 of those times. That would be a 93.8 winning percentage.
So that is one reason why Woods could sit calmly and discuss his even-par 70 yesterday -- including the exhilaration of his eagle at the par-5 ninth, and the disappointment of his double bogey at the par-4 11th -- and seem rather blase about it. Would he be like Kim, charged up to face a potential heir on a Sunday evening at a fine golf course?
"Not yet, not yet," Woods said. Rather, he wanted to get his family -- wife Elin, 2-year-old daughter Sam and infant son Charlie -- down to a good spot to watch the fireworks on the Mall. There would be plenty of time today to summon excitement.
"I hung in there," he said, and that's about what he did, finally making a tap-in birdie on the 16th to tie Kim, playing the group ahead of him, at 10 under, the birdie that sealed the final pairing.
The beauty of that final pairing -- of Woods and Kim playing to decide the tournament -- is precisely what the event's organizers had hoped for, and the galleries this afternoon should be immense. But focusing solely on that matchup also does something of a disservice to a wild Independence Day at Congressional, with characters both accomplished and not appearing on the leader board, then getting knocked back.
Most fun was Michael Allen, a 50-year-old who had, at times, grown so frustrated with his game that he all but gave it up -- even dabbling in construction. He has played in 336 PGA Tour events, and never won, but he shot a splendid 65. Now, he is one back of Woods and Kim.