Wetterich's 67 lands him in pairing with Woods

Published March 25, 2007

MIAMI - Brett Wetterich was once part of a famous foursome, although it had nothing to do with playing golf. He happened to be one of four rookies on the 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup squad whom Tiger Woods took out to dinner shortly after the team was named.

Woods picked up the tab and imparted some of his vast wisdom.

Although the U.S. team was drubbed by the Europeans in Ireland, Wetterich is still appreciative of the gesture, as well as the nine holes he played with Woods at the K Club. It is his only experience in the company of the game's No. 1 player.

Things will be much different today on the Blue Monster course at Doral, where Wetterich goes head-to-head with Woods, spotting him a four-shot advantage during the final round of the CA Championship.

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable around Tiger after spending time with him at the Ryder Cup," said Wetterich, who shot 5-under-par 67 Saturday to get into the final pairing. "I wouldn't have said that if I didn't get time to spend with him. I haven't played with him in a tournament round, and I'm sure it's going to be a little different."

Woods, aided by a first-hole eagle, shot 68. He is 38-3 with a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, the losses coming when he held just a one-shot advantage.

"I've said numerous times, the greatest thing about having the lead is that if you make a couple of mistakes, you can still win the golf tournament," said Woods, 31, who will be trying for his 56th career PGA Tour title.

"When you're coming from behind, you're chasing and you make a couple of mistakes, you can put yourself right out of a chance to win the golf tournament. ..."

Woods was at 205, 11 under par. Australia's Nick O'Hern 66, who defeated Woods last month at the Match Play Championship, putting an end to his seven-tournament PGA Tour winning streak, was third at 210.

Woods is bidding for his 13th victory in a World Golf Championship event in 24 tries. He won this event last year in England when it was known as the American Express Championship and in 2005 in San Francisco. He also is a two-time defending champion at Doral.

For a time, it appeared Woods would have a more high-profile player pushing him in the final twosome.

Ernie Els, who won at Doral in 2002 despite nearly squandering an eight-shot, final-round lead to Woods, pulled within two Saturday after birdie at No. 11. But he bogeyed the par-5 12th, then double bogeyed 18 to drop into a tie for fourth.

Wetterich, 33, became the first in PGA Tour history to go from Q-School to the Ryder Cup in the same season, helped by a victory at the Byron Nelson Championship. A year ago this weekend, he was playing in a Nationwide Tour event.

"It's been a whirlwind, that's for sure," said Wetterich, who has made six of nine cuts this year, with his best finish a tie for eighth March 4 at the Honda Classic. "I went to Q-School, even played a Nationwide Tour event because I wasn't getting in tournaments out here.

"Then I started playing well and then I finally won, had a couple of seconds, got to play in the Ryder Cup. It's been a big change for me."

Bob Harig can be reached at (727) 893-8806 or harig@sptimes.com.