Major-weekend struggles uncharted territory for Tiger
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. –- Over the years, golf has had a long list of oddities and inexplicable developments. It is a sport fraught with the unexpected. Just when you think something is, it isn’t.
2012 PGA Championship: Round 3
Check out photos from the third round of the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.
So it is with Tiger Woods. His Achilles heels, prior to his strained achilles being such, were things like TPC Sawgrass, Riviera, Ryder Cup four-ball. We’re talking golf, so there’s no reason to mention the tabloids.
Now, of all things, weekends at major championships seem to be his kryptonite, at least temporarily. This is shocking stuff, for Woods used to own major weekends, particularly when ahead entering Saturday or Sunday. Until Y.E. Yang proved otherwise in 2009, he was the thoroughbred no one could chase down.
This current chapter of the Woods era, though, has featured unpredictability and retreat. Even after having restored much of his game, to the tune of three 2012 victories, he’s no longer a rubber stamp, a foregone conclusion or the terminator who has been known as the best closer the game has seen.
And so it continued on a weather-shortened Saturday at the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. Woods began the third round tied for the lead at 4 under par, but when competition was stopped as he played No. 8, he was five strokes off the lead and in a tie for 11th.
Loose in all areas, he bogeyed three of four holes starting at the fourth. And he was at risk of making yet another bogey, for he faces an 8-foot par putt at the short eighth when play resumes Sunday morning.
“I got off to a rough start today and couldn’t get anything going,” Woods said Saturday night. “I’ll come back tomorrow morning and see what happens. There are a lot of holes left to play.”
Yes, there are. But there’s also a trend with which we were once unfamiliar. Not only does his major drought date to his 14th success in June 2008, his scoring on weekends at 2012 majors has been curiously high.
He co-led the U.S. Open after 36 holes, then started missing fairways and finished 75-73 for a tie for 21st. Playing conservatively again at the Open Championship a month later, he opened 67-67 but then shot 143 on the weekend and tied for third. What’s more, he closed with 72-74 at the Masters and tied for 40th.
All of this, of course, makes the game more interesting, I suppose. We used to watch because we knew Woods would make some sort of compelling history. Now we watch because we don’t know which Tiger Woods will show up.
When he’s on, he’s still the best player in the game. He has climbed back to No. 2 in the world. He has shown many signs of climbing further. But he’s not always on, as he once was. And he was anything but on on Saturday.
Woods had 23 one-putt greens as his short game saved him the first two rounds. But there were signs of cracks in the final three holes Friday night, when he hit a long putt over the green at 16, left one 10 feet short at 17 and blew one 6 feet past at the last.
Those kind of problems continued in Round 3. He missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the first, lipped out from 15 feet at the next and then pulled a 3 1/2-foot birdie attempt at the third.
Then his ball-striking failed him and he bogeyed three of the next four. At the fourth, he hit a spectator on the left with his drive and another fan on the left with his approach. He signed gloves for each person, leaving one to suspect that on Saturday he would sign more autographs inside the ropes than outside. He might have been running out of gloves.
He missed the par-3 fifth green short left and missed a 9-footer for par. At the par-5 seventh, he drove into a right waste area, advanced to the right rough, found greenside sandy waste and missed a 10-foot par putt after his blast clanged off the pin.
Perhaps the siren blew at the right time for Woods, for clearly he was in need of a timeout. Lightning came to the rescue to halt the bogey train of someone who on his last five holes hit more spectators (two) than greens in regulation (one).
If that wasn’t bad enough for Woods, TNT showed a replay of the 2009 PGA Championship during the weather delay. That’s the lone blemish on his major record, the one time he didn’t close a 54-hole lead, the time Yang overhauled him.
That’s probably not what a hot Woods wanted to watch in the clubhouse. Presumably the television was spared.