LI pro Rittberger can relate to Tiger's bad luck

Tiger Woods reacts after hitting the flag and

Tiger Woods reacts after hitting the flag and going into the water on the 15th hole during the second round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. (April 12, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images )

AUGUSTA, Ga.

The sound of a golf ball clanging off the flagstick here Friday had a jagged echo on Long Island, where Garden City Golf Club head pro Bob Rittberger identified more than anyone with the shot that got Tiger Woods in so much trouble.

"It looked like he hit just about a perfect shot," Rittberger said by phone from the pro shop, referring to Woods' wedge on No. 15, which caromed into the water, costing a stroke penalty and igniting a controversy about where he took his drop.



Rittberger can't relate to the controversy, but he sure can empathize with the bad break. He was in excellent position to qualify for the U.S. Open in 2007 and hit what appeared to be a perfect shot into the 18th green at Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. But his ball hit the flagstick and rolled onto a sprinkler head. It was difficult to hit off of that, and he made double bogey. He missed the Open by one shot.

"That's the game," he said Saturday, as gracious now as he was then. "There's not much you can do about it. In fact, there's nothing at all.

"Everybody that has come into the pro shop this morning has said, 'You know how that feels,' " Rittberger said. "I don't think this is going to affect his career as much as it did mine."

Liu making progress

It might not be too long before Jim Liu of Smithtown gets to play in the Masters. The senior at Knox School, who has committed to Stanford, is ranked No. 1 in the country on GolfWeek's junior rankings. He shot 8-under-par 63 in the final round recently to tie for fourth at the prestigious Azalea Invitational in Charleston, S.C.

And now he has received an exemption to play in the European Tour's Volvo China Open on May 2-5. "This will be my first tour event," he said, adding that he will travel there directly from Ireland, where he will be among the amateur golfers representing the Metropolitan Golf Association against the Golfing Union of Ireland in the Carey Cup. Joe Saladino of Huntington also is on the team, which will try to defend the title it won at Bethpage in 2011.

Park is No. 1

Sean Foley, the swing coach for Tiger Woods, was near the fairway on Augusta National's fifth hole the other day, watching Justin Rose, another of his students. He was met by a reporter who mentioned Annie Park of Levittown, who has studied with Foley longer than either Woods or Rose.

"She's No. 1 in the country, isn't she?" Foley said. Sure enough, a check with GolfWeek's rankings for women's college players lists Park, a freshman at USC, on top. Her team is ranked first, too.

Annika to visit L.I.

Annika Sorenstam and her husband Mike McGee were at the Masters earlier this week for television and promotional appearances. They said they will be at Sebonack in Southampton in June for the U.S. Women's Open. McGee is a friend of Sebonack owner Michael Pascucci. Sorenstam, a three-time winner of the Open, said she has never seen the course on Peconic Bay, "But I've heard it's beautiful."

Bookshelf

A solid recommendation here for "The Irish Majors," about how Ireland and Northern Ireland went 60 years without winning a golf major championship, then won seven in the next five years. It is available on amazon.com, written by Philip Reid, golf writer for The Irish Times, whose brother, Alan, lives in Locust Valley.