World No. 1 Tiger Woods hadn’t won a major in five years heading into the 2013 U.S. Open, and he did nothing to change his fortunes on Merion Golf Club’s tough track this weekend, finishing with a 13-over 293 for the tournament.
With a final round of 74 on Sunday, Woods capped off a U.S. Open performance he’s not likely to forget, made worse by some missed opportunities, questionable putting and a course that absolutely devastated the field and yielded few rounds under par.
According to SportsCenter on Twitter, Woods' plus-13 finish made history for the wrong reason:
Also noted by SportsCenter, only Phil Mickelson entered the final round with a score better than par for the tournament:
Mickelson is a fan favorite who was in search of his first U.S. Open victory after five career runner-up finishes, but there’s no denying the intrigue Tiger provides golf fans on Sundays. Golf Tweets encompassed that sentiment here:
It would have taken a monumental round for Woods to find himself in contention when all was said and done, and he simply didn’t have enough to make it happen—although his final round did start out with some promise.
As noted by Robert Harding, the 37-year-old got off to a hot start with a birdie at No. 1, knocking home a lengthy putt with the confidence golf fans expect from the red shirt on Sundays:
But as well as he started, it was the long stick that continued to give Woods problems at the par-five second. With a wayward tee shot that found the out-of-bounds area to the right, Tiger hoped to simply save double bogey following two consecutive shots from the rough.
Instead, Woods three-putted his way to a triple-bogey eight, moving even further from contention and effectively out of the U.S. Open picture at 11 over.
For all the talk of the world’s best making a run at Jack Nicklaus’ all-time majors record before retirement, he certainly didn’t look the part at Merion. The remainder of his final round would be nothing more than a tuneup for the rest of the 2013 season.
Woods went on to par his next three holes, but he added more blemishes to his card at the par-four sixth and par-four seventh with bogeys, bringing his tournament score to 13 over. In order to salvage any part of his U.S. Open performance, Tiger would have to take advantage of the upcoming stretch of six holes that yielded the best scoring of the tournament.
The following three holes provided some relief from Merion’s tight fairways and thick rough, however. With pars on No. 8 and No. 9 and a birdie on the par-four 10th, Woods did exactly what he had to do to stop the bleeding and regain some confidence.
Still, there was little consolation in a short run of one-under golf. As Yahoo! Sports’ Shane Bacon pointed out, Woods was still 14 strokes off the lead at that time, tied with Sergio Garcia at 12 over:
On a course that absolutely demolished its challengers, no part of Tiger’s final round was particularly surprising. As much as fans wanted to see a massive comeback on Sunday, there simply weren’t enough strokes to be gained in one round.
A bogey at No. 13 didn’t help matters, either.
As we saw from Woods throughout the tournament, putting was his biggest shortcoming on Sunday. While he’s putted nearly as well as anyone on tour this year, Merion’s demanding greens weren’t so kind, especially for players unable to attack tight pin locations with precision.
That may be the most surprising thing about Tiger’s weekend woes. Typically one of the best in the game with approach-shot placement and aggressive ball-striking, Woods consistently missed his mark and put himself in positions to two- and three-putt throughout the tournament.
Unfortunately for Woods, the rest of his round would be nothing more than social media fodder and a reason for golf fans to question his recent struggles in major tournaments. ESPN Radio highlighted one of the biggest questions facing Tiger going forward:
This won’t be the last time we discuss Woods’ major tournament chances. If he fails to secure a major title in 2013, there’s a chance we might never see him inch any closer to Nicklaus’ record.
With a birdie at No. 15 and a bogey at No. 16, Woods limped through the back nine at even par to finish four over for the day and 13 over for the tournament—the worst U.S. Open performance of his career, as noted by CBS Sports’ Eye on Golf:
To be fair to Woods, no one was able to conquer Merion and its brutal layout this weekend. But even with nearly the entire field over par for the tournament, few expected Woods to be one of them.
With the U.S. Open now behind him, Woods will look to the rest of the 2013 season with some big areas to address. As long as Merion didn’t dent his confidence, he shouldn’t struggle to make the necessary adjustment to continue what was shaping up to be a tremendous 2013 campaign—but that’s a big “if” at this point.