A baffling fact: Tiger Woods has won 14 majors, but none have come without at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Woods, who started the day trailing Lee Westwood by two shots, stumbled on his way to a final-round, three-over 74. On his way to a tied for sixth finish at the Open Championship, Tiger was never one of many that was a real factor.
From the get-go, he never looked comfortable on the greens — which several players, including Woods, said were slower than the previous days — three-putting the first hole. While Phil Mickelson, who won in style, managed to adjust to the speed of the fescue grass, Tiger struggled.
“I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds,” he said in his opening comments after his round. “They were much slower today, much softer. I don’t think I got too many putts to the hole today. I really had a hard time and left myself a couple of long lag putts early on when it was really blowing, and left them way short and didn’t make those putts.
“I didn’t really play that poorly. I hit a couple of bad shots at 10, 11, that was about it and at 3. But other than that I really hit the ball well today. I was just — I just couldn’t ever get the pace of these things.”
Now, of course, usually the conditions get firmer and faster as the week goes on, but that didn’t seem to be the case at Muirfield. As you may recall, quite a few frustrated players walked off the course and voiced their exasperation with the hole locations and the unforgiving conditions.
For Tiger, it was the opposite scenario on Sunday, where he just couldn’t get the ball to the hole because the greens were more receptive.
“I had 48 front yesterday on no. 15, and I hit sand wedge about 40 feet past the hole, went about a buck 70,” he said. “Today I had 51 front, it was actually more downwind today at no. 1. And I hit sand wedge and it stopped, just like it did at 15 today. We hit two good shots in there and they both stopped. It was a very different golf course today.”
Mickelson found a way to adjust and even shoot a 32 on the back nine, including birdies on the last two, to win by three shots. Woods, who was probably still upset with his play, was initially resistant in his praise of Phil.
“It’s certainly gettable out there,” said Tiger when asked to assess Phil’s five-under 66. “The greens are slower and if you have, I guess, the feel to hit it far enough up there into the greens, you can get it done. You can shoot between 3- and 5-under par today.
“But it’s having the confidence to throw it far enough in there, because all week they’ve been bouncing over, if you threw it that deep. Evidently he got a pretty good feel for it and made a few putts.”
Yes, *so* gettable that all the guys on the first page of the 54-hole leaderboard shot 70-plus! Phil played his face off, though — doesn’t that take the attention away from your woes?
“Well, I think if it does feel any better, is that Phil got to 3,” he said. “If he would have posted 1 it would have been a different story. I think a lot of us would be a little more ticked than we are now. But he posted 3. That’s a hell of a number.”
There we go.
Obviously, Woods hasn’t won since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. In just over two weeks, he’ll have another chance — everyone all at once…”glory’s last shot!” — to break the his major drought.
“I felt like I was really playing well today,” he said. “Actually the whole week. I really hit so many good shots and really had control of my ball this week. As I said, it was just trying to get the speed and I just didn’t get it.”
I walked with Tiger and Adam Scott for most of the front nine, and if you ask me, it looked like Tiger was once again getting in his own way because he wants it too badly. When he doesn’t start fast with birdies, he starts to press, and then he misses a few, becomes frustrated, and it sets off a downward spiral.
Onward we go to Oak Hill (with a pit stop/warmup at Firestone first).
(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)