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Woods, Kim are all square

July 05, 2009|Barry Svrluga

BETHESDA, MD. — The chaos of an unusually breezy and pleasant Independence Day had not yet settled down Saturday afternoon, when anything seemed possible at the AT&T National.

There was, at one point, a four-way tie for the lead, and forget the usual suspects, because it involved gentlemen named Cameron Beckman and Michael Allen, who have, between them, 19 trips to the PGA Tour's qualifying school. Rod Pampling, an Australian who entered the day trailing by a single shot, momentarily held the lead alone. Anything seemed possible, from any number of characters.

But if you organized the AT&T National, and you ushered a field of 120 players onto Congressional Country Club's Blue Course for a spectacular holiday weekend, you would almost certainly select the following two golfers to fill out the final group on a Sunday, when the tournament will be decided: Tiger Woods, the best player in the world and the host of this tournament, and Anthony Kim, the defending champ with attitude, the one who says he yearns to play with Woods as the Sunday sun sets.

Now, he'll get that chance. Neither Woods nor Kim played beautifully on a wild Saturday at Congressional, but they both ended up at 10-under-par 200 through three rounds -- Woods with an even-par 70 that gave back the lead he held over Pampling on Friday night, and Kim with a 68 that helped him put behind his own struggling 70 from a day earlier.

"I expect he's going to be wearing a red shirt," Kim said, "and he's going to be out there ready to go, and I'll be ready as well."

They have never played together in a PGA Tour event. That has only happened in Kim's mind. It was back when he was 9 or 10, when his dad had not yet picked him up from the golf course, and he was still practicing. Kim would stand over the ball, 10 feet from the cup. He imagined Woods standing off to the side, his playing partner, the final group on Sunday.

"I'm aging," Woods said. "That's what that means."

For Kim, it was a way of setting goals. Drain the putt, and Kim would beat Tiger.

"They were going in a lot," Kim said.

Now, it's a matter of whether he can make them in real life. He is fortunate to have that chance. At one point, it appeared Woods might put some serious distance between himself and the field. After opening with a bogey, Woods steadied himself with a birdie at No. 8, then he went for the throat on the par-five ninth, a 600-yard monster. He hit a 366-yard drive, a three-iron to 25 feet and made the putt for eagle, a fist pump and a three-shot lead.

There is, though, the matter of the 11th at Congressional. In the first two rounds of this tournament, Woods made two bogeys, both at No. 11, an uphill par four. Saturday, he hit his drive in the rough, his approach in a front left bunker, hit his bunker shot in another bunker, then missed his bogey putt.

So in a way, that's when things got interesting. Beckman -- who began the day five shots behind Woods -- chipped in from 35 feet off the 16th green, an eagle that dropped him to nine under. Thus, there was a four-way tie for the lead: Woods on the 12th green, Kim on the 14th tee, Allen playing 18, and Beckman headed to the 17th tee.

At the end, however, it was Woods and Kim. Together, for the first time.

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Svrluga writes for the Washington Post.

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