Tiger Woods Just a Fraction Off
What began as a promising quest for a 15th major championship dissolved into disappointment Sunday for Tiger Woods in the 112th U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
After sharing the 36-hole lead, Woods went backwards the last two rounds. He followed up Saturday’s 5-over-par 75 with a 73 Sunday and tied for 21st at 7-over 287, six strokes behind winner Webb Simpson.
“Yesterday, I was just a touch off,” Woods said. “That’s fine. I’m still in the ballgame. Today, I just got off to a horrific start and just never got it going early, and unfortunately I put myself out of it.”
A poor drive into the right rough led to a bogey at the par-4 first hole. An errant second shot found the back bunker at the par-4 second and resulted in another bogey.
Then, at the 224-yard, downhill, par-3 third hole, his 6-iron tee shot came up short-right in thick rough and left a horrible angle to the middle-right pin position. Woods hit a bad chip that rolled off the green into more spongy rough, left his next shot 20 feet short of the hole and two-putted for his first double bogey of the tournament, essentially eliminating himself from contention.
“I had a bad lie and couldn’t go after the flag,” he said. “I was trying to put the ball 15 feet left of the hole, and I bottomed out too much on that slope and then just shot it out over the green.”
Tiger steadied with a par at the fourth hole, but bogeyed the par-4 fifth and sixth holes, the latter for the fourth consecutive day. His body language told the story. Woods knew his chance of winning was gone and was simply trying to finish strong on a very demanding course that leveled most of the field Sunday.
The first six holes are the toughest on the course and got to Tiger on Saturday and Sunday, when he played them 3-over and 6-over, respectively.
“The first six, I just didn’t play well at all,” Woods said. “I just could never get anything going positively and I missed the ball on the wrong side a couple times, and that’s all it takes.”
For the fourth day in a row, Tiger was unable to birdie the drivable, 264-yard, par-4 seventh hole. But he didn’t quit. At the 188-yard, par-4 eighth, Woods hit a beautiful tee shot 12 feet below the back-left pin placement and rolled in the birdie putt in front of the huge crowd sitting on the natural amphitheater right of the green. Tiger waved off the putt with his right hand and smiled, tipping his cap to the fans.
With the Pacific Ocean mist getting heavier and the temperature dropping, Tiger settled down. He parred the ninth hole to make the turn in 5-over 39.
Woods then reeled off four straight pars before securing his second birdie of the round at the 407-yard, par-4 14th. He nearly birdied the 164-yard, par-3 15th, just missing from about 15 feet.
At the 569-yard, par-5 16th, the longest hole in U.S. Open history, Tiger made a nice seven-foot, par-saving putt. He followed with his second birdie of the week at the 510-yard 17th, a short, uphill par-5.
Woods split the fairway with an iron off the tee at the 335-yard, par-4 18th. His second shot finished pin-high, 17 feet right of the hole. Tiger received a warm welcome from the massive crowd surrounding the green, and tipped his cap in appreciation. Many watched him play during his college days at nearby Stanford University and were pulling hard for him. Woods left his birdie putt short but tapped in for a closing par.
Given his rough start, Tiger proved a lot. He played the last 12 holes in 3-under and did not make a bogey, shooting 2-under on the back nine. And although it wasn’t the finish he wanted, Woods hit many quality shots during the tournament.
“There’s a lot of positives to be taken away from this week,” he said. “A lot of positives. I just gotta apply them.”
For the week, Woods hit 45 of 72 greens and 33 of 56 fairways in regulation. He used 29 putts Sunday and had 123 for the week.
“I was just a fraction off,” Woods said of his putting. “I struggled with the speed of the greens.”
One area Woods will look to improve is his bunker play. Granted, he drew several awkward stances, but he only managed to get up and down two of 11 times from the sand.
“I had a chance this week,” Woods said. “I’ll get after it in another week in DC.”
Tiger will return to competition in two weeks at the AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.
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