By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Bo Van Pelt went the distance with Tiger Woods, for most of the day anyway.
Tied for the lead coming down the stretch of the AT&T National, Van Pelt had a small opening to seize control of the tournament on the 16th hole. Instead, he found out just how hard it is to beat the player he calls the best in the world right now.
After smoking a 345-yard drive down the left side of the fairway on the 589-yard par-5, Van Pelt’s 6-iron second shot took a bad bounce left and into the rough. With Woods’ third over the back of the green and in a bad spot of his own, Van Pelt still had a chance to do what Woods has done to so many others in his career.
Instead, Van Pelt left his pitch in the rough and went on to bogey the hole.
One hole later, Van Pelt made another bogey when his approach flew the green and was unable to get-up-down with an impossible flop shot that rolled through the rock hard putting surface.
Van Pelt bogeyed the 18th, too, but by then it was game over.
“Obviously it's disappointing,” Van Pelt said. “I felt like obviously when he hit it over the green on 16 I had my opportunity to take advantage. That's all I was trying to do. I felt like on the back nine if I could just keep putting pressure on him that maybe he'd give me an opening, and he did on 16. If I get the ball on the green there and make 5, who knows.”
Van Pelt added that he wouldn’t change any club he hit or change any line he took.
He’d certainly take a different result, of course, especially on the 16th.
”A yard to the right, that ball ends up in a pretty easy spot,” Van Pelt said of his 6-iron approach.
The ball wasn’t in a great lie -- it was sitting up, but there was a clump of grass in front of it -- and Van Pelt was forced to stand in the bunker with the ball well above his feet.
”If I hit that chip a little too hard it goes over the green because you can't put any spin on it,” he said. “I was just trying to get the ball up in the air and play it out to the right a little bit and just got underneath it a little bit.”
As Van Pelt said, it happens.
“We grinded, we competed, and it was just a matter of making the key putt or a key up-and-down and not making too many mistakes,” Woods said. “I figured it was going to come down to probably the last five or six holes and it ended coming down to, what, the last three holes where the tournament swung.”
The loss will sting for a couple of days, Van Pelt admitted. But not much longer than that.
He certainly seemed to relish the spotlight playing alongside Woods.
“It's a lot of fun,” said Van Pelt, who has known Woods since his college days. “That's why you travel 30 weeks a year, why you get up in the morning and you make the sacrifices that you do to have the opportunity to play the best player in the world in the final round with a chance to win a tournament. I was looking forward to it. The energy level is great. The crowd was great. It just didn’t work out.”