International becomes a monumental test

Posted: Sunday, August 07, 2005

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — It has long been one of golf's most unique tournaments. This weekend, the International has morphed into something even more.

Call it a golf marathon: On Sunday, 63 players will compete in a one-day, 36-hole endurance test through the tall pines, thin air and steep hills of the Rocky Mountains, with a $900,000 check waiting for the winner.

Cameron Beckman was in the best position after the second round Saturday, making five birdies and an eagle to hold the lead with 23 points.

Just one point back were Billy Mayfair, Charles Howell and Brandt Jobe.

But with two rounds to go, and the modified Stableford scoring system able to change things dramatically in the span of one swing, it's hard to say who's in the best position.

Most likely, it will be the players who are in the best shape.

''We're not out there hitting people and tackling people, but walking 36 holes on this golf course is not easy,'' Howell said. ''I think it's just as important to physically stay strong as it is mentally.''

Also in the hunt were David Toms, who scored 12 points to bring his total to 18; Retief Goosen, who scored 12 points to get to 17; and Phil Mickelson, who had a 5-footer for eagle on 17, but three-putted to wind up with par. He still scored 14 points to finish with 17.

''I'm actually going to go get a workout in, and try to build up some stamina for tomorrow,'' Mickelson said before he left the course.

Under the Stableford system, players get eight points for a double eagle — there have been three in the 20-year history of the tournament — five for eagles, two for birdies, none for pars and lose one point for a bogey.

''I love the format, and I'm going to try to make a run tomorrow,'' said Mickelson, who won three tournaments before the Masters, but has been slumping since.

The last time a PGA Tour event ended with a 36-hole finish on Sunday was in September 2003, at the 84 Lumber Classic, when Beckman held the lead going into the last day. He finished fifth.

''My back was killing me,'' Beckman said.

He knows that course was an easy stroll compared to Castle Pines, a 7,619-yard layout at an elevation of 6,300 feet. Rain washed out play Thursday, forcing PGA Tour officials to try to cram four rounds into three days. To do it, they reduced the cut to 60 players — counting ties, the final number was 63 — and decided to play 36 holes on Sunday.

Maybe the luckiest players are the ones who finished 64th through 70th, a list that included Jose Maria Olazabal. Under PGA Tour rules, they'll still get paid because, under normal circumstances, they would have made the cut. But they won't have to play the 36-hole marathon and can leave Colorado on Sunday to head to New Jersey to begin preparing for next week's PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

The rest were in for a long day.

Jobe, who grew up in the Denver area, thought he knew all about playing at altitude and the 10 percent difference it usually makes in how far the ball flies. Early Saturday, though, his math was all messed up and he started the round with three bogeys over the first four holes.

''I stopped and said, 'Let's figure this out. You lived here. You can handle this,''' Jobe said.

He did, and came back with six birdies to wind up in good position, one long day away from his first victory on the PGA Tour.

Beckman, meanwhile, has seen how quickly things can change here.

He got in contention when he holed out from the sixth fairway in his first round Friday for an eagle, worth five points. After grinding through his first nine holes Saturday, he made an eagle on the par-5 first for another five points, vaulting him toward the top of the leaderboard.

''Someone said the second shot almost went in,'' Beckman said. ''That would have been nice. But the eagle sort of relaxed me.''

3M Championship

BLAINE, Minn. — Tom Purtzer shot a 3-under 69 to take a three-stroke after two rounds of the 3M Championship at the TPC of the Twin Cities.

Purtzer, who opened with tournament record-tying 9-under 63, moved to 12-under 132 in chasing his second Champions Tour victory in 17 months.

Scandinavian TPC

LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden — Tournament host Annika Sorenstam birdied the last two holes for a 5-under 67, giving her a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Scandinavian TPC.

Sorenstam was at 4-under 212, with Norway's Suzann Pettersen at 213 after a 69.

France's Gwladys Nocera, trying to win a spot on the team for next month's Solheim Cup was at 214.

U.S. Women's Amateur

ROSWELL, Ga. — Morgan Pressel and Venezuela's Maru Martinez won semifinal matches to reach the final round of U.S. Women's Amateur Championship.

The finalists face 36 holes of match play Sunday at Settindown Creek Course.

Pressel, 17, beat Angela Park, a high school senior from Torrance, Calif., 3 and 1. Pressel, who has asked the LPGA to allow her to turn pro before her 18th birthday next May, played the two back-nine par-5s at 3 under.

She eagled No. 10 to go 1-up and birdied No. 16 with an 8-foot putt that gave her a two-stroke lead with two holes remaining. Pressel rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole. She watched Park miss a 3-footer to end the match.

Martinez, an Auburn senior and the only nonteenager in the semis, never relinquished the lead after she birdied No. 6 to go 1 up in her 4-and-3 victory over Australia's Alison Whitaker.

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