Monday, June 18, 2007

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) — It took Aaron Baddeley just 14 minutes to give up a lead that took him three days to build. It will take him a lot longer to get over his final round in the U.S. Open.

Baddeley's shot an 80 to go from third round leader to fourth round also-ran Sunday, but he insisted that the triple bogey he took on the first hole didn't doom his chances to win his first major championship.

``That 7 on No. 1 definitely hurt,'' he said. ``But I looked at it and said, `This isn't over. I still have a chance.' When I walked off the green, I wasn't all that disappointed.''

Baddeley faced the dual pressure of being paired in the final group with Tiger Woods and trying to win his first major. It unraveled early, when he fell short on his second shot on the first hole, chipped over the green and 3-putted for a seven.

``I finally got it in the hole,'' Baddeley said afterward, trying to find some humor in a round that was anything but pleasant.

Baddeley tried not to let the triple get to him, getting pars on the next five holes. But he missed one makable birdie putt after another, and a double-bogey 6 at the difficult 479-yard seventh effectively ended any chance at a comeback.

Baddeley stepped on the first tee with a two-shot lead, only to hear thousands cheering for Woods. He got applause himself, but Woods was clearly the favorite on this day.

Baddeley was philosophical about his struggle on the final day, but it was the kind of round in a major championship that will likely stick with him for some time.

``If I make a few putts on the front nine ... `` he said. ``If I make that first putt on No. 1 for bogey. I three putt No. 4 for par and miss an 8-footer on the next and a 6-footer on the next, you make any of those putts, then, all of a sudden, who knows? I had no momentum with me at all.''

NO REPEAT: Geoff Ogilvy was in a much better mood when he left last year's U.S. Open.

The defending champion had another rough day Sunday, not spending nearly enough time in the fairway and shooting a 5-over 75. He finished at 19 over and was signing his scorecard before the leaders even saw the Church Pew Bunkers.

``I'm just frustrated,'' he said. ``I didn't have much fun the last three days.''

The Aussie started defense of his title well, shooting a 1-over 71 in the first round that left him three strokes back and tied for fifth. He was 1 under for the tournament after his first five holes Friday.

But Ogilvy played the rest of that round 7 over and could never pull his game back together. He shot an 8-over 78 on Saturday.

``I know I don't need to practice out of the fairway bunkers. It's no use,'' Ogilvy said. ``We should just add one shot and drop the ball in the fairway. ... You should be penalized for missing a shot, but it shouldn't be so black and white. I don't like the one-shot penalty that's almost guaranteed.''

The rest of his game wasn't bailing him out, either. He hit only half his fairways and greens in regulation all week, and he needed 32 putts both Saturday and Sunday.

On Sunday, he couldn't get any momentum going until the back nine, when he made three birdies in a four-hole span.

But it wasn't enough to salvage a bad week.

``It is what it is,'' he said. ``I just didn't bring all my game here this week, and you need to.''

BACK AGAIN: Bubba Watson had only one question when he turned in his scorecard: What's a guy have to do to get back to the U.S. Open?

Watson tied for fifth in his second Open. Better than his $248,948 check, it earned him a spot in next year's field. The top 15 automatically qualify for 2008 at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

``I didn't know that. I'm excited now,'' Watson said. ``I've got one job next year. One week, at least.''

Make that two. The top eight at the Open also qualify for the Masters. England's Nick Dougherty, who finished in a tie for seventh after a 1-over 71 Sunday, also will be making his first trip to Augusta National next year.

``I've never felt like this coming off the course before, but I'm actually delighted,'' Dougherty said. ``I've done myself proud this week, and I'm extremely pleased with the progress I think I've made.''

Watson was happy with the strides he made, as well. Before this week, he was known as the guy who can hit it a mile - using a driver with a pink shaft, no less - but he also had a reputation for falling apart when the pressure was greatest.

No more.

Though he opened with a double bogey on No. 1, he played solid the rest of the way. He wound up with a 4-over 74 that left him tied with David Toms.

``If you'd told me my second major, tied for fifth, I'd have taken that and gone back to the house and watched it on TV,'' said Watson, who was a crowd favorite all week.

STRICKER GOES SOUTH: The one thing Steve Stricker can always bank on is the very thing that let him down.

Stricker, perhaps the best putter on the PGA Tour, had a share of the lead when he made the turn. But he three-putted Nos. 10 and 11 for back-to-back double bogeys that took him out of contention.

``Putting killed me the whole week,'' he said. ``That's the worst I've ever putted, I think. I really had no idea of the speed on some of the holes.''

Though Stricker rebounded with a birdie on the par-5 12th, his day was essentially done. He had bogeys on 13 and 16, and a double on the 17th. He also missed a birdie putt on 18.

``It just all unraveled on the back side,'' he said. ``After 10 and 11, I was deflated. I'm trying to hang in there and trying to make a birdie or two coming in.''

It was yet another tough ending for Stricker. Though he's begun to find his form again - he was the tour's comeback player of the year in 2006 after beginning the year without any status - he's still looking for his first victory since 2001.

SUPREME FAN: Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor traded her black robe for golf khakis.

``I'm just here to enjoy it,'' she said. ``It's fabulous.''

O'Connor is a golf enthusiast and was recently appointed to the U.S. Golf Association's President's Council. The advisory committee met Saturday in nearby Latrobe, Pa., so she took the opportunity to make her first trip to the U.S. Open.

She also played a round Saturday with Arnold Palmer.

Aside from the sheriff's deputy at her side, there was little to tip anyone off that the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court was in the gallery. She sat just off the walkway onto the first tee, applauding enthusiastically when fellow Stanford alum Tiger Woods arrived. She also walked the course for a bit.

Asked if she'd like to be play Oakmont Country Club, O'Connor simply smiled.

``Wouldn't want to,'' she said. ``It's too hard.''

LOW MAN: With nothing to lose, Anthony Kim went low.

Kim shot a 3-under 67 Sunday, the second-lowest round of the week and one of only eight total under par. It raised him 37 spots on the leaderboard, into a tie for 20th.

``I'm almost in dead last, so just fire at some pins and hopefully it works out,'' Kim said of his approach on Sunday. ``I hit some quality golf shots and got a couple of putts to fall. It could have been a little better, but I'm not complaining.''

Kim said he missed five putts inside 10 feet.

DRESS CODE: Lee Westwood could not have picked a better outfit for the final round at Oakmont: black pants and a bright yellow shirt, colors that define this sports-crazy area around Pittsburgh.

Not that he did it on purpose.

Westwood noticed throughout the round that fans were applauding his color coordination, only later learning that Pittsburgh is the only city in America where all major professional sports teams wear yellow and black.

``It was an accident,'' he said. ``I might not have done that. I'm a Yankees fan.''

BEAR WITH ME: Lions and Tiger and oh, my, that really was a bear. The U.S. Open draws golf fans from the animal kingdom as well as the United Kingdom.

A mother bear and her cub wandered onto No. 7 Sunday morning after play had started, but before any golfers had reached the hole. They roamed around for a few minutes, then jumped back over a fence and disappeared into the woods that line the right side of the par 4.

Bears are a common sight in western Pennsylvania - hunters kill about 1,000 every year - and a few usually rumble through Oakmont Country Club.

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