ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Think about when the 2010 schedule was finalized, and we all thought the same thing. Hmmm . . . Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrews . . . we might be going to Whistling Straits with Tiger Woods entertaining Grand Slam possibilities.
Of course, that was before the SUV hit the hydrant in Isleworth last November and the man’s entire world – as well as golf’s – turned on its axis. Instead, Woods departed St. Andrews on Sunday having gone 0-for-3 on three venues (Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews) that have yielded half of his 14 major championships.
Having tied for fourth at the Masters and U.S. Open, this seemed to be his greatest opportunity to get on the major board in 2010, the place where his misses might not be so penal, a place where he’d won by eight and five shots, respectively, the last time we visited.
Instead, Woods made two double bogeys in his first seven holes on Sunday and didn’t even come close to breaking into the top 10. With Louis Oosthuizen fulfilling the role of the ‘old’ Tiger Woods around St. Andrews on Sunday, dominating the field to win by seven, Woods could only muster a round of level-par 72 to finish at 3-under 285 for the week. He tied for 23rd, his worst Open finish (he missed the cut last year at Turnberry) since a T-28 at Muirfield in 2002 , when the weather got the best of him and he posted a third-round 81.
Truth be told, he had the worst of the draws here at the Old Course as well, having to play on Friday afternoon in the week’s toughest conditions. That may have been his best playing, when he shot 73. But at week’s end, he had little else to lean on for positives. He was fine off the tee – who doesn’t drive it well at St. Andrews – but his putting needs lots of help.
“You just can’t play and expect to win golf tournaments if you have nine or 10 three-putts for a week. No one can win doing that,” he said.
And so the winless season continues. First stop, the practice green, where he needs to smooth out his stroke and regain some confidence. Next stop, Akron, for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. And then he’ll try to notch his 15th major title at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, which doesn’t seem quite the same natural fit for him as the Old Course.
When he returns to St. Andrews, will he have passed Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors? It doesn’t seem quite the lock it once was, does it?