Rude: Tiger goes from tuneup to tuned out

Tiger Woods during the third round of the 2013 Memorial at Muirfield Village.

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— For the sake of argument, we pose this question about Tiger Woods: Which would leave a worse taste in his mouth – dinner with Sergio Garcia or the 7-over-par 79 Saturday that tied his second-highest score as a professional?

We’re thinking probably the meal, five-course or otherwise.

That said, Woods was some kind of steamed after the third round of the Memorial Tournament. And who could blame him after one triple bogey, two double bogeys and three bogeys on a Muirfield Village course where he has won five times?

Woods came here for a final U.S. Open tuneup looking for his fifth victory of the 2013 PGA Tour season. Instead, he got the highest nine-hole score of his pro career. It was a 44 on his opening nine, the back side, punctuated by the triple, two doubles and a bogey even though he missed only one fairway in a steady two-club wind.

This was stunning stuff, for here was a guy on a roll and at one of his pet playgrounds. But, just like that, welcome to golf, and Woods’ game came off the rails for myriad reasons: some poor chipping and putting on and around the fast, sloping greens; wind gusting to 25 mph; some bad swings; some bad breaks.

The whole thing left him in a tie for 69th, ahead of only three players who made the cut. And it had him talking like a caddie. You know, like the looper who says “we” shot 66 and “he” shot 76.

“We didn’t hit that many bad shots starting out the day, and the next thing you know we are quite a few over par,” Woods said after taking 30 putts for the third consecutive round and hitting only nine greens in regulation. “It was a tough day. I tried to fight back on the back nine, but it just didn’t quite materialize.”

Woods made those comments to a Tour media official who talked with him in the clubhouse after Woods bolted past a large group of reporters near his last green.

But then this round was a shock to his system. He has shot higher only once on Tour, an 81 during a windy downpour at Muirfield in the 2002 Open Championship, one of golf’s worst bad-weather days. And only once before had he shot as high as 79, that coming at the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship while he was suffering personal problems post-infidelity scandal.

His previous high nine had been 43, and one of them was at that Wells Fargo event. The others were at the 1996 Tour Championship, the same day his father was hospitalized, and at the 2007 Bay Hill Invitational.

“It’s just one of those things where I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggled out there,” Woods said. “The conditions were tough, and when I missed, it cost me. I caught the wrong gusts at the wrong time, made a couple of bad swings and all in all it just went the wrong way.”

Woods was right about this: Misery had company on a day that yielded only six scores in the 60s, one of them a 69 by playing competitor Jim Furyk. In fact, Woods didn’t even have the highest score in his threesome. Zach Johnson shot 81, one stroke lower than the 82 of budding star Jordan Spieth.

“(Woods) didn’t hit that many bad shots but got away with none of them,” Furyk said. “He just kind of had things snowball on him. And then the putter on the first side we played let him down, and that added a bunch of shots.”

Woods’ troubles started on his third hole, the 174-yard 12th, when a near-perfect shot rolled back into a bunker. After seeing the lie, he threw down a rock in frustration. He had to blast left, and then three-putted from 59 feet for double bogey.

“It was tough out there from beginning to end,” Woods said.

Then the 529-yard 15th got him for the third straight day. His log there: Bogey followed by two doubles. Saturday’s came after he hit a 245-yard second shot from the fairway way left, behind a tree, 100 feet from the hole. He took five shots from there, thanks to a chunked chip, a long flop and three putts from 41 feet.

After missing the green and chunking a chip while bogeying 17, he tripled 18 despite finding the fairway. His approach rolled back down a slope, 92 feet from the pin. His lob came back down the hill as well. He pitched 5 feet past the hole, knocked the downhiller 6 1/2 feet by and missed.

Woods rallied with birdies at Nos. 1 (10 feet), 2 (25 feet) and 5 (two putts), but bogeyed Nos. 6 and 9 after missing greens.

For certain, Woods will have to clean up his short game before the U.S. Open. The first two days were more of the same: He got up and down six of the 13 times he missed greens, and his chips ended up an average of 10-plus feet from the hole.

The screamers will suggest Woods is out of sorts. Those with more patience will suggest this is just a blip in the wind. This wouldn't be the first time things got blown out of proportion regarding the most scrutinized golfer of all time.

“Everything he does is under a microscope,” said Furyk, a 16-time Tour winner. “He wasn’t going to tell you anything that probably you didn’t already see because we had a full camera crew with us the entire 18 holes today, and every shot he hit I’m sure was taped and was shown somewhere. It’s so rare for a guy who’s not playing well.

“If I go out and shoot 79 on Saturday, no one sees a shot. For him, it’s a different story.”

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