LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Tiger Woods had owned the par-4 sixth hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes during the first three days of the 141st Open Championship. He had three birdies in three days.
And then the toughest hole at Royal Lytham struck back at an inopportune time for Woods.
After finding the fairway with 3-wood, Woods flew his approach shot into a greenside bunker, where it buried and also was about a foot in front of the wall of the bunker.
Woods took his time in thinking about what play he’d make, eventually deciding to take a whack at it. The ball hit the wall and bounded backward, nearly hitting Woods in the process.
The ball landed in an even tougher position, forcing Woods to nearly lay down to take the shot from outside the wall of the bunker, with the ball shooting off the top of the bunker and finding the green.
He noticeably came up limping after that shot and went on to three-putt from 40 feet for a triple-bogey 7.
“The problem is if I played left I wasn’t assured I could get it to the gallery and get it out of that slope because if it rolls back in the bunker and I’m on the downslope then I’ve got no backswing,” said Woods, who would finish T-3 after a final-round, 3-over 73. “So I had to be able to blast it into the gallery, and I didn’t think I could get it into the gallery because of the sand, how it piled up on the right side of the ball.
“So the game plan was to fire it into the bank, have it ricochet to the right and then have an angle to come back at it. Unfortunately it ricocheted to the left and almost hit me.
“Then I tried to play an interesting shot after that and ended up three putting.”
What might have proved more costly for Woods was a bogey-bogey-bogey stretch on the back nine after getting back to 5 under with birdies at Nos. 10 and 12. He found two fairway bunkers on Nos. 13-14 and left himself more than 240 yards into the green on No. 15.
His caution had turned into a hazard coming down the stretch.
Woods had his best finish in a major since he lost to Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship, though he remains winless in his last 17.
“It’s part of golf,” said Woods, who moves to No. 2 in the world. “We all go through these phases. Some people, it lasts entire careers. Others are a little bit shorter. Even the greatest players to ever play have all gone through little stretches like this.”