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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Not how Woody Austin dreamed it
Tampa native Woody Austin has chased a major his whole career. Just guess whom he has to beat.
By JOHN ROMANO, Times Sports Columnist
Published August 12, 2007
TULSA, Okla. - You struggle, sweat and persevere. You worry, weep and endure. You wait a lifetime to reach this moment, only to discover fate can be a wicked companion.
Ah, if only Woody Austin had a bit more luck going for him. The dream of a career, one he was close to giving up on, is within his grasp. The Tampa native was in third place in the PGA Championship, putting him closer than he has ever been to winning one of golf's majors.
And all he has to do is the impossible.
Catch Tiger Woods.
The world has never known a better closer than Woods. He is Mariano Rivera with better stuff. He is Richard Petty without brakes. We may have learned over the years that Woods is not totally infallible, but we also know he is darned near unstoppable once he has a lead.
You want numbers? Woods is 12-0 when tied or leading a major going into the final round. He is 23-0 when he has more than a one-shot lead in the final round of PGA Tour events.
Woods is unshakable and unforgiving. If he is not getting in your head, he is breaking your spirit. When Woods gets a lead in a major, the world sees golf's version of squatter's rights.
"It makes it harder because it's him, I'll grant you that," Austin said. "But I'm still four shots back of winning. Four shots in a major is not insurmountable if I play the way I have the last three days."
They could not be more different, these two. Woods is 31, and has won 12 majors and 58 PGA Tour events. Austin did not even get his tour card until he was 31 and, at 43, has three victories.
Woods is calm and cool; Austin is a nervous wreck. Woods gets millions in endorsements from Nike; Austin gets hideous golf shirts from Tabasco.
And, yet, there is a feistiness to Austin that makes you want to believe in him. He is not much for sugarcoating, and he gets annoyed by what he perceives as the media's worship of Woods.
"Everyone asks if I'm intimidated by him. What, are we going to get into a fight?" Austin said. "I'm intimidated by the fact that I have a chance to win a major championship. It has nothing to do with him. Golf intimidates me every day. There's no intimidating factor with him, unless we're going to fight.
"And then he's 12 years younger and a lot stronger than me, so he's going to kick my butt."
Austin is certainly not the first to try to chase down Woods in a major on a Sunday. Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els have tried and failed. Retief Goosen and Sergio Garcia have also taken their shots and come up short.
Only Bob May and Chris DiMarco can claim to have caught Tiger in a major. May, in the 2000 PGA Championship, and DiMarco, in the 2005 Masters, chased him down in regulation, only to lose in playoffs.
Players have a tendency to wilt when getting too close to Woods, and the PGA Championship's third round was a perfect example.
A trio of Oklahoma college students followed Woods around the course Saturday, one dressed as a tiger and the other two in safari outfits with Geoff Ogilvy's and Scott Verplank's names written on their pith helmets.
"We thought of this idea coming down this morning," said 19-year-old Scott Plaster. "We decided we were going to be tiger chasers."
They chose Ogilvy and Verplank, two of the more accomplished players within range of Woods, as their best shots at tiger chasers. By day's end, Verplank and Ogilvy were out of contention after shooting 74s. Verplank was not optimistic about the odds of anyone catching Woods.
"I'd say it's not very good," Verplank said. "If you're trying to win a tournament like this, he's the wrong guy to let get out ahead of you."
Austin's best chance might have been left on the 18th green Saturday. At the time, he was three strokes back and had birdied two of his last three holes. But Austin's approach shot went past the pin, and he missed a 9-foot putt for par to drop to 3 under for the tournament.
"If he would have stayed at 4 under, I think that is catchable," said Austin's wife, Shannon. "But as fast as the greens are getting, it's just not going to be easy to come from way behind to catch Tiger."
Less than two months ago, Austin was four strokes behind going into the final round of the Stanford St. Jude Championship and shot a stunning 62 to win.
Of course, that day he was chasing Adam Scott instead of Tiger Woods.
"I'm good enough to win a major, I've just never shown it. That's part of my frustration. That's part of me being hard on myself," Austin said. "In my eyes, I should have already done it.
"This is my next-best attempt at it."
There's a fair chance this could also be his last attempt.
Austin has gone from playing public courses in Tampa, to a devastating knee injury, to working a teller line at a credit union and tending bar on Dale Mabry Highway to raise money for his career, to 13 fairly nondescript seasons on the PGA Tour to get to this point.