Crazier things have happened, but Tiger Woods' five-year major championship drought will almost certainly continue after Round 3 action at the 2013 U.S. Open on Saturday.
The world's top-ranked golfer, who has been dealing with left elbow inflammation all week, finally succumbed to the wills of Merion Golf Club's vaunted East Course in his third round. Struggling throughout the day with nearly every facet of his game, Tiger shot a six-over 76 to take himself almost completely out of contention at the Ardmore, Pa. course.
Heading into the clubhouse, Woods was nine shots behind Charl Schwartzel and Luke Donald, who were still finishing the day when Tiger's day was done.
Here is a look at how the remainder of the U.S. Open leaderboard stands, with players still wrapping up their day on the course:
A test of wills throughout the week, Woods' struggles with his elbow injury gave many memories of his last major championship—the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. It was at the hallowed San Diego course that Tiger defeated Rocco Mediate in a captivating playoff, one that saw Woods play despite having an obviously ailing knee.
Woods would eventually need season-ending ACL surgery after the U.S. Open to repair the condition, and his triumph at Torrey Pines has largely been seen among the greatest of his career.
There will almost certainly be no such triumph this week. While less demonstrative in his displays of pain than in his first two rounds—though they were still prevalent—Woods' game fell off a cliff on Saturday. He shot seven bogeys against only one birdie en route to all but cementing himself out of reasonable contention.
Here is a look at Woods' scorecard from Round 3 for reference of how it all played out. Note that birdies are bolded and italicized, while bogeys are merely bolded:
As you can see, there weren't a lot of red numbers to be had here. Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker had already given up on Woods' chances by hole No.12—they had the right idea:
Though Tiger's day quickly went off the rails, things certainly looked good on the first tee. The 36-year-old Woods, who was playing with Rory McIlroy for the third straight day, put himself in a strong position to start. Looking calm and collected off the tee, Woods scored a birdie on his first round and saved par on the second to get off to a strong start on the day.
The third hole quickly set the narrative to Woods' day. After sailing the ball far into the rough, Woods hit a great recovery approach that left him within range to save his par.
Woods missed the putt to save...throughout the round. Tiger would take one step forward only to fall two steps back—and that's if he was even able to take the initial step forward to begin with.
After being unable to card a red number on the par-five fourth hole—a bad sign for any Tiger round—Woods began his continuous day of struggles at the East Course on Nos. 5 and 6. Even soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who usually sticks to his NFL analysis, could see that only bad things were coming from here on out:
Carter was quickly proven right. Though he managed to save par throughout the remainder of his front nine, the hitches in his game were obvious. Woods, who struggled mightily with chipping on Friday, did so again in his third round.
ESPN's Trey Wingo was one of many who were fondly remembering Woods' days among the world's best at that skill throughout the third round:
And that was all before Woods (arguably) hit his low point on the day. Throughout the week, the par-four 10th hole has been one of the few "easy" ones on the course. According to ESPN's stats tracker, it is one of just two holes—the other being No. 13—that have played under-par this week.
While Tiger did not wind up finishing in the 80s, his day didn't improve much after bogeying the 10th hole. The course allowed him a one-hole reprieve from his bogey-filled day, but he found himself seven-over for the tournament and four-over for the day after being unable to convert a putt from about 50 feet out for par.
Through 12 holes, Woods made five bogeys against one birdie—and he still had the toughest part of the course remaining. Things stabilized a bit from there, somehow, with Tiger only carding one bogey over the next five holes.
But standing on the 18th green, we got one last glimpse of what would be one of his worst career days at a U.S. Open. With a relatively easy par putt to finish off his day, Woods misjudged the speed, and it went off right. He tapped in for the bogey, a fitting end to what was a nightmarish third round at Merion.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, this was the third-worst round of Woods' Open career:
There weren't many positives of Tiger Woods' round, but at least he can take solace in being the latest viral GIF trend. A slow-motion capture of Woods hitting a golf ball makes his swing look like it has superpower-level strength:
Outside of that, though, Woods' third round will probably be remembered as the day he once again played himself out of major contention. Barring some duality between a superhuman round from Tiger and the complete collapse of much of the leaderboard, Woods should play in the early afternoon rounds and find himself in the clubhouse well before anything gets decided.
With Tiger's playing partner McIlroy also struggling his way through a miserable Saturday, only one of golf's monolithic faces (Phil Mickelson) will be in contention on Sunday. Given their struggles, it's only proper that the world's top two golfers watch on as players who were able to handle Merion Golf Club fight their way for a U.S. Open crown.
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