Tiger Woods certainly has been active on “Moving Day” in each of the past six major championships. Unfortunately for him, the direction in which he has moved has been backward.
2012 Masters: Eight behind after 36 holes, he shot 72 and trailed by 12. Stroke change to lead: Lost 4.
2012 U.S. Open: Tied for lead through two rounds, he shot 75, fell into a share of ninth and was five back. Stroke change: Lost 5.
2012 Open: In third place halfway through, he shot 70 and fell to fourth place, five back. Stroke change: Lost 1.
2012 PGA: Shared lead at 36 but shot 74 and fell into a share of sixth. Stroke change: Lost 5.
2013 Masters: Trailed by five halfway through, shot 70, fell into T-7, four back. Stroke change: Gained 1.
2013 U.S. Open: Joint 13th and just four back halfway through, he shot 76, fell into a tie for 31st and was 10 behind. Stroke change: Lost 6.
Net result for last six “Moving Days” in the majors: Lost 20 strokes, or an average of 3.33 strokes per round.
This year’s 76 was his worst third-round score in 16 U.S. Opens as a professional. His worst third-round score in a major remains the 81 at Muirfield at the 2002 Open, though an epic storm had much to do with that one.
It is now five years since Woods’ last major triumph, the 2008 U.S. Open and any time you compare the numbers, different interpretations are available. In the 16 majors in which he has played since he won at Torrey Pines, for instance, Woods clearly has struggled with his consistency on the big stages. He is winless, with seven finishes outside the top 20; of his eight top 10s, only two have been second or third. By comparison, his 16 majors before that (2004 Open Championship through 2008 U.S. Open) produced six wins, 11 in the top three, 13 top 10s and only two finishes outside the top 20.
One man’s assessment: His recent form in the majors makes you appreciate all the more how truly incredible he was for a long, long stretch of time.
• • •
INDELIBLE STUFF: When it comes to lasting images, the scene at the 72nd hole of the 2013 U.S. Open will be hard to shake. Having had at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds, Phil Mickelson came to the final hole needing a miracle birdie, just to tie.
We say “miracle” because the left-hander was short of the green and would need to pitch a low runner into the cup. As he surveyed the shot, the crowd broke out into a pulsating chant of, “Let’s go, Phil.” Never heard anything quite like it at a major championship. When he settled in over the shot, the crowd then stopped on cue and silence ruled the moment.
After Mickelson missed and stood to the side of the green to let Hunter Mahan finish, that same crowd serenaded the left-hander with a chorus of “Happy Birthday.”
• • •
MAJOR MEN: You might not expect to mention “John Peterson” in the same sentence when talking about players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Adam Scott. But at this point in the program, you have to. That’s because they are four of 28 players who can lay claim to having made the cut in each of the season’s first two majors.
Peterson’s streak likely will stop there, as he’s not presently in the field for the Open Championship at Muirfield.
However, the more noteworthy streak that likely will end is Steve Stricker’s. He has made the cut in 14 consecutive major championships – all four in 2010, ’11 and ’12 and both this year. But unless the semi-retired Stricker were to change his mind about not playing at Muirfield – and there’s no reason to think he will – that streak will end.
Scott and Jason Dufner have made the cut in seven straight majors, and Woods is next, with six.
Among the unheralded names who have made the cut in each major this year: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Peterson, K.J. Choi and John Senden.
• • •
SHORT HITS: A par 3 of thoughts and observations, though with the U.S. Open fresh in our minds, here’s hoping that driver is enough club:
• Let me get this straight: Justin Rose wins the U.S. Open, and two days Bubba Watson gets tabbed to throw out the first pitch in a Dodgers-Yankees game?
• Pretty sure Herbert Warren Wind didn’t go writing about his round of golf the day after a major . . . and he could play as beautifully as he wrote.
• Garcia certainly has a little John Daly in him. On his resume now are the 10 at No. 14 at Merion, the 7 at Sawgrass’ 17th and the 12 at Doral’s third.
• • •
PHILLY FAN: Mark Fulcher remembers thinking positive thoughts when he heard that the 2013 U.S. Open would be at Merion. Not only did he like the fact that his boss, Rose, tops the all-round-driving list, but Fulcher has a pretty good track record in the Philadelphia area.
He was on the bag for three of Laura Davies’ wins at DuPont CC in Wilmington, Del. – the 1993 McDonald’s Championship and the 1994 and 1996 LPGA McDonald’s Championship. Of course, he also caddied for Rose when he won the 2010 AT&T National at Aronimink in Newtown Square, Pa.
“I really hope for a British Open to be held in Philadelphia,” the veteran caddie said.
• • •
WAVING THEIR FLAGS: Not to say they rivaled the famed wicker baskets at Merion Golf Club, but Granite Links GC in Quincy, Mass., showed a brilliant touch atop its flagsticks. Head superintendent Brad MacDonald and his crew adorned all 27 (there are three nine-hole loops) with Bruins flags in honor of the local team’s bid to win the Stanley Cup.
The flags were specially ordered and came with the team’s blessings.
Located just 7 miles south of downtown Boston, the club has hosted a number of Bruins, though general manager Walter Hannon said, “We prefer not to see them before the end of June.”