by Jeff Skinner
I saw it but I had a hard time believing it. Tiger mania is at full volume as he scrambled around The Stadium Course with a two under 70 to end the day tied for second. Woods started the day tied for 22nd, he finished around five o’clock and watched most of the field drift back to him. The only player that didn’t lose ground was the leader Alex Cejka. Cejka, the 267th ranked player in the world had it to twelve under, but stumbled on the 12th and 13th with a pair of bogeys. He played eighteen like he owned it with a great drive and a perfect approach to just under five feet for a pressure free birdie. Cejka fled the Czech Republic at age nine with his father and lived in Germany. He now lives in Las Vegas and has not won a tournament since 2002 on the European Tour. He recently went to the “Stack and Tilt” method and earned his tour card on both the US and European Tours by going to both Qualifying Schools. He would be a wonderful story if he went on to win this tournament, no player ranked so low has ever won the Players Championship. He has a six stroke lead over a flock of golfers, Goosen, Byrd, Crane, Stenson, Poulter and a former Players Champion named Woods.
Actually it’s astounding that Woods is still in the mix. He has driven the ball terribly and his putter has been suspect at best. In a comparison of critical statistics (driving accuracy and distance, putts per round, putts per GIR, GIR and sand saves) he ranks fifth out of the top seven golfers. Not surprisingly Cejka ranks first and his driving accuracy tops the entire field. The only category where Tiger is in the top ten is Sand Saves. Tiger’s round today featured five birdies, three bogeys and a left-handed punch-out. No player gets as much out of his game as Tiger. He can make par or birdie from anywhere and recently the problem is he has had to. By virtue of his early finish, Woods will be paired with Cejka in the final group. Many in the media have wondered if Cejka is up to the pressure of a final pairing with Woods. What does he have to lose? He already has surpassed all expectations, he has a six stroke lead and Woods and the rest will have to go low to have a chance. Did Cejka really think he would be in the lead on the final day when he started on Thursday? Maybe he did, maybe he is an optimist. He will be tested tomorrow when he plays in the biggest fishbowl in golf. Tiger in the final pairing isn’t a round of golf, it’s a circus and every fan there will be screaming for Woods. Cejka looked relaxed and confident on Saturday. If he can continue to play the same way on Sunday he’ll be the Cinderella Story of The Players Championship, but Tiger Woods will do his best to make his own fairy tale ending.
In what could be described as a meltdown, Lorena Ochoa shot a three over 74 to fall into a tie for fifth place with Natalie Gulbis and Wendy Ward at The Michelob Ultra Open. Lindsey Wright shot a 64 for the best round of the day and a share of the lead with Cristie Kerr. Wright is looking for her first career LPGA win while Kerr has been hot lately with a T5 and T2 in her last two starts.
Consistent isn’t a word normally used to describe John Daly but he has been very consistent this week on the European Tour. Daly shot his third straight 69 in the BMW Italian Open to move into a tie for eleventh place, five strokes back. Daly had said he loves playing the European Tour and it shows this week.