CIMB Classic: Anatomy of a Championship

So the broadcast of the CIMB Classic from Kuala Lumpur begins at midnight on the East coast and Tiger is already 5-under through nine holes. He has a short iron into 10 and he stiffs it.

You rarely see blow-by-blow coverage of a PGA Tour event, because frankly, it’s boring. But it takes on a whole new patina when you read such an accounting imagining that it’s you in the heat of battle, unable to just pay undivided attention to your own golf. All of the bogeys and birdies sort of meld together in a cacophony that a player doesn’t dare get sucked into, especially the scoreboard watchers. 

Even if you take a vow not to watch the scoreboard, you can hear the birdie roars all over the golf course; the really loud ones are Tiger’s. So there’s no getting away from the ongoing drama that’s taking place all around you. But shutting all of that out is the biggest single thing you can do to stay in your own game. But all around you, it goes on…

Tiger makes his birdie on 10 and as his threat continues to mount, overnight leaders Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus are through 7; Van pelt is 3-under on the day and at 19-under and Garrigus is 2-under and 18-under. Chris Kirk is quietly 3-under and tied with Garrigus. Where did he come from?

Wherever he came from, he’s taking his charge seriously; he birdies 8 to tie Van Pelt for the lead at 19-under. And then hits his tee shot into the thicket of trees on the left side of 9; very hard contact.

Kirk gets a reprieve when the thicket spits it out. Can he take advantage of his good luck? Nope. He pulls it into the deep swale left of the green. He goes for the high lob shot, hits it a smidge thin and 12 feet past the hole. After three marginal shots in a row, is he thinking about being in the lead? He misses the putt and drops a stroke back of Van Pelt.

Garrigus hits it into the same thicket as Kirk and gets lucky too; his ball falls just outside of it, but he has no shot and has to chip out. He ends up with a bogey and falls two shots back of Van Pelt.

Tiger fails to birdie the par-5 11th, pulls his tee shot on 12 into the rough and then, guarding against a mud ball, leaves the approach shot short-right to a long-right pin. He heads for the green, takes his hat off as he goes and shakes his head like wet dog to get the sweat off. The temperature is in the low 90s with 65% humidity. Super muggy. He makes par.

Meanwhile, Carl Pettersson birdies 17 to get one back of Van Pelt at 18-under. He’s 9-under on the day. And Nick Watney does the same thing on 11. He’s 6-under on the day.

Who are these guys? In Watney’s case, the eventual winner, because he’s just getting going.

Watney hits it to five feet on 12 as Garrigus blows his tee shot on 11 way out right; a lateral hazard down the entire left side of the the hole was apparently sobering.

Tiger gets to the par-3 14th where he hit it into the fronting pond yesterday. A good hole at 196 yards, he powers it over the pin and 15 feet beyond the back fringe. He chips with his 5-wood and the downhill shot runs 8 feet by. He makes the comeback putt for par.

Pettersson finishes with a par on 18, is 9-under on the day and is the leader in the clubhouse at 18-under.

Watney makes his five-footer for birdie to tie Van Pelt at 19-under.

Tiger boldly goes for the 294-yard par-4 15th with his 3-wood. He just catches the lip of the short-left bunker and it trickles into the flat bottom. He writhes in “what could have been” on the tee.

Up at the green, Tiger chunks the ball just barely out of the bunker…and hits a wonderful little chip shot that just slides by the hole: par when he was thinking eagle and still stuck two back at 17-under.

Until Nick Watney hits it to four feet on 13, makes it for birdie to take the lead at 20-under. He’s 8-under on the day.

Tiger hits it to 16 feet on the 188-yard par-3 15th. It was a good shot; like so many of the holes on the Mines Golf Club, water, water, everywhere. He makes the putt to get to 18-under, two strokes back.

Garrigus makes a seven-footer on 12 to match Tiger.

With eagle on his mind, Tiger swings hard on the par-5 17th and blocks it just down the bank on the right side of the fairway. He’s not happy.

Chris Kirk hasn’t given up; he makes a 15-footer on 13 for birdie to get to 19-under, one stroke back.

Watney attempts to drive the 294-yard 15th and ends up in the same bunker as Tiger. Except Watney softly lobs it out to three feet and makes the putt for birdie. That gets him to 21-under and a two-stroke lead over Van Pelt and Kirk.

Tiger manages to hack his second shot on 17 pin high, right of the green, plays a towering flop shot over the big ridge line in the green and the ball rolls gently to a stop just six feet under the hole. He makes it to get to 19-under and T2.

Unfortunately, Watney drains a 25-footer on the 16th to get to 22-under, 10-under on the day. 10-under; is he thinking about shooting 59? He has to be; he has the reachable 17th coming up.

Tiger hits it to ten feet on 18. A birdie gets him a 62 and to 20-under, but it just slides under the hole. 19-under and 8-under on the day is a pretty stellar day.

Watney reaches the front of 17 in two and makes a comfortable 2-putt to get to 23-under, 11-under on the day. He has a four-shot lead and needs a birdie on 18 to lock up his 59.

Van Pelt finally makes birdie on the back at 14 and gets to 20-under, alone in 2nd. On the par-3 16th, he feathers his tee shot over the water to 10 feet.

Watney plugs his ball in the rough on 18, gets a drop but is only able to slap it up the fairway about 30 yards short of the green. 59 seems gone if he doesn’t pitch it in, but to try would require an aggressive shot that could lead to bogey and drop him down to just a two-shot lead over Van Pelt. He dribbles it just inches short of the green. The 59 watch has morphed into a bogey-on-18 watch.

He misses his attempt at par low and short and is the new leader in the clubhouse at 22-under. His 61 is a course record.

Van Pelt misses his 10-footer on 16, still at 20-under with two holes to go.

Garrigus birdies 17 to get to 20-under and in 3rd alone.

Van Pelt follows with his own birdie to get to 21-under and just one stroke back of
Watney.

Van Pelt blows his drive way right on the bank down to a contiguous hole, but he has a shot at the green. He flares it into the bunker right of the green. He gives it the old college try, but at least he missed it long.

But wait, Garrigus makes his birdie putt from about seven feet to get to 21-under. Now Van Pelt needs to make his comeback putt for par to stay T2 with Garrigus. Impressively, it was solid and right in the middle of the hole.

Watney wins the trophy and the $1.3 million that goes with it as strains of Rudyard Kipling run through the mind, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”

 

 

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