Originally created 02/03/01

Another chance for Gogel



PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Matt Gogel, a victim in Tiger Woods' spectacular comeback victory last year, took a big step toward putting a bad memory behind him Friday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Gogel, whose 40 on the back nine of the final round allowed Woods to make up seven strokes on the final seven holes, had a career-best round of 10-under 62 to tie the course record at Poppy Hills and take a three-stroke lead over Vijay Singh.

"I was anxious to come back because I love this place," Gogel said. "It wasn't like I was coming back for unfinished business."

Still, "It would make for a heck of a story if it continued this way," he said.

With birdies on the last three holes, Gogel finished at 131 and managed to separate himself from the pack after two pristine days on the Monterey Peninsula.

The pack did not include Woods.

Despite playing the same course as Gogel and Singh -- and the easiest of three in the rotation -- Woods bungled the first two pars 5s and failed was over par for the second time in his last five rounds.

A two-putt birdie gave him a 73 and left him eight strokes behind, the same 36-hole margin he faced last year.

"My swing was never in sync," Woods said.

Singh, who wound up tied with Gogel two strokes behind Woods last year, also played Poppy and had a 68 to get to 134.

The group at 135 included Kemper Open champion Tom Scherrer and Frank Lickliter, who was one stroke behind the late Payne Stewart after 54 holes two years ago and never got a chance when the final round was washed out.

That shouldn't be a problem this year, not with that stranger known as the sun gracing all three courses.

"This is the most sunshine we've seen in the last five years, all packed into two days," Lickliter said after his 66 at Poppy Hills.

Phil Mickelson, who won Pebble Beach in 1998 when the final round was pushed back seven months to August, had a 66 at Spyglass Hill and was at 8-under 136.

Gogel appeared to be cruising to his first career victory last year, a comfortable margin over Singh and Woods a mere afterthought. But the 29-year-old from Kansas played his final eight holes in 4 over, and Woods went eagle-birdie-par-birdie.

Gogel has 36 holes left to protect this lead, but his game is holding up just fine. He has played his last 31 holes without a bogey, and he did the one thing Woods failed to do at Poppy Hills by taking advantage of the par 5s.

Gogel birdied all five of them, including the 555-yard ninth hole for a 62. His previous best round was a 63 in the third round at Las Vegas.

Woods couldn't attribute this round to the ligament he sprained in his left knee Wednesday when he collided with an overzealous man seeking an autograph.

He sprinted up a steep slope left of the 12th green to see where his blind pitch shot land. It was 4 feet from the hole and he saved his par on the 531-yard hole.

His round began ominously. He had a chance to immediately join the leaders with only a 4-iron into the par-5 10th hole, but his old swing flaw caused him to go left of the flag and into the water, leading to a bogey.

Then, his 3-wood off the tee on the 531-yard 12th hole when through the fairway behind the pine trees. He pitched sideways into the 13th fairway, then tried to scale a row of 45-foot pines to the green.

Saving par with the great pitch at least restored some of his humor.

"Hi, I'm Tiger Woods. I'm playing with you today," Woods told Mark O'Meara, a common introduction when amateurs are playing with pros.

Woods proceeded to bogey the next two holes. When he finally strung together some good shots, his putts bumped along and kept him frustrated.

"I broke 80," he shrugged. "I never really felt comfortable. As much as I tried to grind it out and get in the clubhouse, I never could hit the good shots when I needed to."

Any score over par at Poppy Hills is throwing away shots to the leaders, but Woods wasn't in awful shape. He was only five strokes back, three better than he was at this stage last year.

And at least the sun is still shining.

When asked whether he looked at his round as a blown opportunity because Poppy is such an easy course, Woods replied curtly, "I look at the fact I didn't play well."

"You can have a muny course as easy as can be," he said. "But if you're not playing good, you're not playing good."

The consolation? He's far from out of it.

The example of that will forever be Pebble Beach last year, when he showed that no lead is safe until he's no longer on the course. And this time, he gets 36 holes -- not seven -- to try to make up the deficit.

Gogel figures he'll be better prepared this time, if he finds himself in that position again.

"I've still got one more course in my rotation," he said. "We'll worry about Sunday on Sunday."