How Tiger Woods Lost the 2009 PGA Championship

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How Tiger Woods Lost the 2009 PGA Championship
(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

It’s an old tale in the golfing world.

Vijay Singh collapsed in the spotlight of playing with Tiger Woods on Saturday. 

Ernie Els bogeyed the last three holes on Saturday to take himself out of contention. 

Padraig Harrington made a quintuple-bogey eight on the par-three eighth hole on Sunday, ending his chance at glory’s last shot. 

Only the finish to our story was different.

Tiger Woods didn’t win.

The most telling picture from the final round of the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club was Woods reaming himself out after missing his par putt at No. 17.

It was a mix of intense anger, boiling frustration, and incredulity. 

It was almost as if Woods couldn’t believe this was happening to him, like he had no control over the proceedings.

Woods has never had to deal with a defeat like this, a defeat that was sowed on Saturday and harvested by Y.E. Yang on Sunday. 

Tiger was too conservative on Saturday, playing a US-Open style round when he could have been more aggressive.  Birdies were falling around the course on Saturday and it was Yang who took advantage, carding the low round of the day with a 67.

Tiger figured he could run away and hide with the tournament and that everyone around him would crumble, not catch him.

And for the most part (see: Els, Singh, Harrington) that was true. 

But the old Tiger Woods didn’t want to just run away and hide, relying on the incompetence of others.  The old Tiger Woods was one of the great competitors of all-time, like Michael Jordan. 

The old Tiger Woods wanted to beat you, beat you by as much as possible, so as to leave no doubt as to who was the better golfer. 

Since this is such an old tale, one begins to look for the signs whether they are there or not.

Woods came out on No. 1 by making a statement, hitting it to six or seven feet.  There goes Tiger.

But he missed the putt, and came away with par on the opening hole.

When Yang began to falter on the front nine, Woods failed to capitalize, mainly by handicapping himself.

Yang missed his approach shot on No. 5 right into the woods, hit his drive on No. 6 into the trees (he hit an amazing recovery shot), and hit his second shot on No. 7 into the crowd.

How would Tiger respond?

By laying up from 246 yards away on the par-5 seventh hole.  He didn’t even get his next approach shot up the slope in front of the hole. Pars at No. 7 for Woods and Yang.

On the par-three 13th, Yang hits his ball into a bunker. Tiger was nice and tight, eight feet for birdie.  These are the ones he makes 95 percent of the time to drive a stake right into the heart of his opponent.

Tiger missed.

Yang, with a huge fist pump, makes a crucial par putt, a two-shot swing—the ones that usually swing in Tiger’s favor.

What happened on No. 14 doesn’t happen if Tiger kills Yang’s chances on No. 13.  Yang doesn’t chip in and make eagle on No. 14 if Tiger birdies the previous hole.

And when Yang channeled his inner Shaun Micheel circa 2003 on that final shot on No. 18, all Woods could do was watch.

After leaving the door open, after trying to run and hide his way to major No. 15, Tiger may have out-thought himself.

The old Tiger kept going and never looked back.  Three years ago, Woods won the PGA Championship at 18-under par.  He shot 65 on Saturday at Medinah Country Club. 

Playing with co-leader Luke Donald on Sunday, in a week where there was an abundance of birdies, Woods kept going by shooting a four-under 68.  Donald tied the highest single round score shot by anyone in the top 10 with a 74. 

The new Tiger likes to look back at the field, and he what he saw was Y.E. Yang.  Tiger was caught, looking back and standing still.

One thing is certain; Tiger Woods will be looking back at this weekend for a long time.

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