The 2013 U.S. Open was supposed to be Tiger Woods‘ return to major championship glory.
Woods was having one of his best seasons in a long time, with four tournament championships: the Farmers Insurance Open, the Cadillac Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and most recently The Players Championship in May. And although his winless streak in majors, which dates back to the 2008 U.S. Open, continued at The Masters in April, he still finished in a respectable tie for fourth at minus-5.
He did struggle in his final tuneup for the U.S. Open at The Memorial, but in all, his 2013 has been largely successful.
So the stars were aligned for Woods to rid himself of an albatross and win major No. 15. But instead, it all went terribly wrong at Merion Golf Club this weekend.
Woods finished the weekend at 13 over, which, according to Bob Harig of ESPN, is the worst 72-hole score Woods has ever had at a major as a pro. His record worst performance at a major before this weekend was a plus-12 at both the 2006 U.S. Open and the 2003 PGA Championship. His final score was nowhere near the eventual winner Justin Rose‘s plus-1.
Woods’ struggles began right away with a 73 on the first round, which spanned two days due to rain. He followed that up with a solid 70 (even) in the second round and was still very much in contention at plus-3. But the weekend was a different story for the world’s No. 1 golfer. Woods shot a 76 on Saturday, which put him out of contention entering the final round. He went on to finish the U.S. Open with a 74 on Sunday.
So, why did Woods struggle at Merion? The basic answer is that he couldn’t get the putter working. He had to hit 127 putts over the course of four rounds, which is the second most he has ever needed in a major, according to ESPN. His previous high was 128 in the 2005 U.S. Open, and he still came in second in that tournament.
“I struggled with the speed, especially right around the hole. Putts were breaking a lot more,” Woods told USA Today. “I gave it a little more break, and then it would hang. That’s kind of the way it was this week.”
His struggles on the green were exemplified by the fact that he finished in a tie for 15th in fairways hit and in a tie for 20th in greens in regulation this weekend, which are numbers that usually get you better than a plus-13. Despite the overall steady striking statistics, Woods did hit an abysmal six of 14 fairways on Sunday.
“It’s certainly frustrating because I was feeling like I was playing well this week, and I just didn’t make the putts I needed to make,” Woods told The Associated Press. “The first two days, I had, like, three three-putts, and I was four shots off the lead, and I missed a boatload of putts within 10 feet. So I really wasn’t that far off. If I clean up the round and don’t three-putt, I’m one shot back starting out today.
“Basically, I just didn’t have the speed right this week, and it certainly showed.”
His struggles with the flat stick also played a large role in him shooting over par on 21 holes, which is the second most he has ever had at a PGA Tour event, according to ESPN. His worst hole came at the par-5 second, where he shot an eight on Sunday after starting off the day with a birdie.
Although this weekend couldn’t have gone much worse for Woods, he will still get two more cracks at ending his major drought this year, starting with the Open Championship in July.