Hoylake reprise becomes antithesis for Tiger
HOYLAKE, England – His final-round assignment in the 143rd Open Championship was a lethargic effort, hardly reminiscent of the last visit to Royal Liverpool. Back then, Tiger Woods was brilliant in pulsating warmth, winner of a third Claret Jug.
But in coolish weather Sunday, Woods was done and finished and headed back home by the time Rory McIlroy took to the stage. That McIlroy handled his duties wonderfully and earned a third victory in his last 14 major chances is impressive stuff and will immediately open a floodgate of comparisons to Woods.
PHOTOS: Rory McIlroy's 2014 British Open
See the action and emotion of Rory McIlroy's 2014 British Open championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
All well and good, but some perspective is required.
Consider that this was McIlroy’s 23rd major as a professional. When he played in his 23rd major as a pro, Woods had already won eight times. McIlroy is a three-time major winner at 25; Woods was a three-time major winner at 24.
Not that you would have believed such numbers had you watched Woods play in this, his first major of the season. A closing 75 – his third consecutive over-par score after opening with 69 – completed a trip to Hoylake that was the antithesis of what he did eight summers ago.
How miserable a week was it for Woods?
Only once in 18 tries in the Open has he had a higher 72-hole score than his 294, and that was as an amateur in his 1995 debut at St. Andrews when he shot 295. Excluding Turnberry in 2009 when he missed the cut, you could argue that this was his worst Open performance. Because when he shot 294 in 1999 it was at Carnoustie, arguably the most punishing and unreasonable set-up in major championship history.
Need proof? Consider that in ’99, a 294 total was good for a share of seventh place. But this year’s 294 total buried Woods in 69th, his worst standing in not only the Open, but for any major championship in which he played 72 holes.
In six competitive rounds since coming back from a March 31 microdiscectomy, Woods has a 73.83 scoring average, going 13 over par. The dilemma of where he fits into the picture for the remainder of 2014 is a curious one. Unless he pulls off some magic at the Bridgestone Invitational (July 31-Aug. 3) or PGA Championship (Aug. 7-10), Woods will miss the FedEx Cup playoffs and the million-dollar question will swirl around Ryder Cup (Sept. 26-28) in Scotland.
If he were the captain, would he pick himself?
“I would say yes,” Woods said. “But that’s my position, my take on it. Obviously, it’s (Tom Watson’s) decision.”
In stunning contrast to what Woods did in the final round, the 64-year-old Watson birdied 16 and 18 to shoot 68, his best Open score since a 65 to begin the 2009 championship at Turnberry. Finishing at 1-over 298 and joint 51st, the five-time winner of the Claret Jug answered media inquiries, then had one of his own. How was Woods doing, five groups back?
Told of the double at seven and the series of bogeys early on the back, Watson shook his head. “That’s not good,” he said.
But the Ryder Cup captain didn’t want to engage in talk about whether or not he would choose Woods with one of his three picks. “I’m not going to answer that, because it’s not fair to the process. The process needs to be at the right time.”