ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — It shaped up as another Summer of Tiger. Just like the one in 2000.
The U.S. Open was at Pebble Beach, where Woods had won by 15 a decade ago. And the British Open was at the Old Course, where he’d won by eight that year and by five in 2005. So you didn’t need a history degree to surmise that he would probably be adding to his major victory total of 14.
Upon further review . . . maybe that embarrassing offseason is having more of a sustained impact than many figured it might.
Sunday, the man who’s still four majors away from tying Jack Nicklaus for all-time heavyweight champ shot an even-par 72, which at least was one better than he’d managed the previous two rounds. That left him at 285, in a tie for 23rd. In the previous three majors, he’d finished second (pre-sex scandal), fourth and fourth. He’s now gone seven majors without a trophy, though he did miss two in 2008 while recuperating from knee surgery. The longest drought he’s ever experienced is 10, which happened twice (1997-99 and 2002-05).
Next month’s PGA is at Whistling Straits, where he tied for 24th in 2004.
In his last two trips here, he never shot worse than 71.
Yet he did manage to keep himself out of the infamous Valley of Sin that fronts the 18th green all week. He drove that par-4 for the third straight day, and for the second time actually two-putted for birdie.
Speaking of which, he went back to the putter that he’d used for the last 11 years, after ditching it the first three rounds. He only used his short stick 27 times, after going 32-32-35 until then.
“I believe I had, like, nine three-putts for the week, so, consequently, I’m pretty far down the board,” Woods said. “The greens are a little bit faster than they were, and I just didn’t feel comfortable with my speed …
“I feel satisfaction in the sense that I drove it on a string and hit my irons pretty good. But other than the first day (67), I did not putt well at all. You just can’t expect to win golf tournaments (if you do that). No one can. Got to clean that up before I tee it up again. It’s way off.”
It’s been a recurring theme. See AT&T National, Aronimink. Besides, he could have two-putted all of those and still not won.
Including Augusta National, half his major wins came on venues that were hosting one this year. Sounds like wasted opportunities.
“The good news is I’ve won half of them not on these venues, too,” Woods countered.
This Open will likely return to the home of golf in 2015. Woods will be 39. His life figures to be in better order by then. Where he’ll stand in relation to Nicklaus at that point remains at least up for conjecture.
Graeme McDowell, coming off that U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach, finished with a 70 that left him at 285 … Defending champion Stewart Cink had a 74, for 289 … John Daly, who won here in 1995 and was three off the lead after an opening 66, closed with a 73 for 289. This time he was wearing pants patterned after the American flag. Shades of Ian Poulter and his Union Jack theme … Phil Mickelson, who won the Masters in April, had two birdies in his first five holes but none the rest of the way en route to a 75 and 289 … Tom Lehman, the 1996 champion, had a 70 for 284 … Mark Calcavecchia, the 1989 champ, had an 80 for 294. After 36 holes, he’d been in second place, five back … Y.E. Yang, who’ll try to defend his PGA Championship next month, shot a 74 for 291 … Jin Jeong, who last month became the first Asian to win the British Amateur, eagled the last hole for a 72 to get to 284. He’s 20 … Next July’s venue is Royal St. George’s, on the southern coast of England, which last hosted in 2003 when Ben Curtis won.
The Associated Press