If the new era of the Tiger-Phil rivalry was scheduled to begin at Oak Hill Country Club this week, someone forgot to tell the game's best two players.
Heading into Sunday's final round, the two are a combined 14-over par and sit much closer to the bottom of the leaderboard than to the top of it.
Along the way Mickelson has become unglued and completely lost his swagger in the third round at Oak Hill. Likewise, Woods has been frustrated, demoralized and at times on Saturday seemed uninterested.
Tiger looks like he'd rather be having lunch with alex Miceli than being on the course at Oak Hill right now.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) August 10, 2013
This wasn't the way it was supposed to be for Woods and Mickelson in the season’s final major. The PGA Championship was supposed to be the launching pad for a renewed rivalry between these great golfers.
Instead, it was another disappointment for Woods and a slight step backwards for Mickelson.
It was also a reminder that there are no guarantees in golf’s major championships—even when talking about the sport’s two greatest talents.
At Oak Hill this week, Woods has been erratic off the tee and simply out of sorts on the greens.
The end result is a four-over tally through three rounds, including a three-over on Saturday, that guarantees his now five-year-plus drought in majors will continue at least until next April.
I'm sure Tiger's feeling good about finishing his round on a Saturday at a major before Stevie and Adam have even teed off #pgachamp— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) August 10, 2013
For Mickelson, things have been even worse. The reigning British Open champion has been all over the golf course, including Saturday when at times he seemed to be playing tennis with his golf ball back and forth across fairways and greens.
His shocking third-round eight-over 78 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard to second to last at 10-over.
Given the wave of expectations that carried the two into the PGA Championship and just how vulnerable Oak Hill has been, the poor form of Woods and Mickelson is a curious thing indeed.
Prior to this week, Lefty was having one of the best summers of his spectacular career. Not only did he win the Claret Jug for the first time, but he also won the Scottish Open and finished in a tie for second at the U.S. Open for a record sixth time.
Phil Mickelson's 78 is his highest 3rd-round score in a major in more than 10 years (2002 PGA last 78/worse).— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) August 10, 2013
His ball striking pure, iron play dialed in and putting back to his high standards, Mickelson arrived at Oak Hill riding the high of those great summer accomplishments. Next to Woods, he was a clear favorite to claim his second straight major and the fifth of his career.
From the very start, however, Mickelson just seemed off, and things have only gotten worse as the tournament has progressed. Playing alongside fellow 2013 major winners Adam Scott and Justin Rose in the first two rounds, Mickelson fought hard to shoot back-to-back 71s.
[VIDEO] The rough is so bad at the PGA Championship, Phil Mickelson needed 3 shots to get out of it. http://t.co/jahbQgofaU— Business Insider (@businessinsider) August 10, 2013
Given his history of coming back in majors, however, hope was held out he might have a charge in him that would echo around Oak Hill on Saturday. What we heard instead was one large thud.
Things haven't gone as far off the rails for Woods, but a year of disappointment in majors certainly marched on Saturday. In fact, Tiger’s third round was essentially a microcosm of his 2013 struggles in golf’s toughest tests.
Like he has three previous times, Woods is coming up short at Oak Hill because he can't find enough fairways or make nearly enough putts to get low as he has in his five PGA Tour wins this year.
Woods fired a 61 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational just a week ago, stealing some of the headlines back from Mickelson and seeming poised to finally win another major.
Tiger Woods: "I didn't hit it very good, didn't make anything, kept blocking every putt. So it was a tough day" http://t.co/RqkXVA06oT— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) August 10, 2013
Yet at Oak Hill, frustration has simply been pouring out of Tiger with every opportunity that went wanting and each mistake that cost him shots to par. It's become a common thread for Woods in golf's biggest events.
When he finishes on Sunday much earlier than he had hoped to, Tiger’s streak of starts without a major title will have grown to 18, the questions as to his struggles in those events will have reached a fever pitch, and the doubts as to whether he’ll ever get a 15th title—much less a 19th—will be at a new high.
That's the penalty for poor play in majors and one that both Tiger and Phil feel three rounds into this PGA Championship.
They are undoubtedly too far back to do anything about it on Sunday, but there will be plenty of opportunities for the two to make it up to us moving forward.