Entering Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship at Hazeltine, the issue on most fans' minds was by how many strokes Tiger Woods would win. Later in the day, as unheralded South Korean Y.E. Yang held aloft the Wanamaker Trophy following his shocking upset of the world's greatest golfer, the issue on fans' minds was how Tiger managed to blow it.
Wearing his Sunday signature red shirt and holding an astonishing 14-0 record when he went into the final round of a major atop the leaderboard, the prospect of Tiger losing seemed less likely than John Daly actually finishing a tournament or wearing a normal pair of slacks. It had been nine years since Tiger had lost any tournament when he held a lead of two shots.
He was as predictable as death and taxes. He was as regular as Metamucil.
And as the leader after 18, 36 and 54 holes, you couldn't have blamed fans for tuning in Sunday expecting to see Tiger's coronation, not to mention his 15th career major victory.
But golf's version of constipation hit Woods hard on Sunday, as he missed one critical putt after another.
"Terrible day on the greens, and I had it at the wrong time," Woods told reporters after the final round. "I either misread the putt or had bad putts. … I had plenty of looks. I was certainly in control of the tournament for most of the day, but just didn't make anything today. I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well.
"I did everything I needed to do except for getting the ball in the hole."
Playing in the final pairing with Yang and holding a two-stroke lead entering the final round, Woods three-putted for bogey at No. 4 for the second consecutive day and also bogeyed No. 8, sending the duo to the back nine tied for the lead.
But Tiger's putting struggles didn't stop there. Woods missed short birdie putts on both 10 and 13 — and the momentum shifted Yang's way, especially with his game-changing, 60-foot chip-in on 14.
"On 13, I stuffed it in there, and he made a mistake and hit it in the left bunker," Woods recalled. "He blasted out. I missed my putt, he made his. And then he chipped in on the next hole. So that two-hole stretch turned it. If I make my putt, he doesn't chip in … you know, a lot of different scenarios could have happened on those two holes. But I didn't execute. I didn't make the putt."
Tiger's frustration continued with missed par putts on 17 and 18, as he finished three strokes behind Yang.
"All of the other 14 major championships, I putted well the whole week," Woods continued. "Today was a day that didn't happen."
Perhaps the most evident difference between Sunday and the previous 14 major-tournament final rounds was the lack of Tiger magic. Yang, for one, didn't seem charmed by Tiger's typical Sunday spell.
"It's not like you're in an octagon where you're fighting against Tiger and he's going to bite you or swing at you with his 9-iron," Yang said through an interpreter. "The worst that I could do was just lose to Tiger. So I really had nothing much at stake."
Now that Tiger's previously impenetrable Sunday lead has finally been overcome at a major, is it possible that the now 33-year-old Woods has lost his mystique?
Not likely, given that Tiger has still won a Tour-high five titles this year and still sits atop the money list, having taken home nearly $7 million in prize money.
But all it takes is one bad final round to give Woods an inkling of doubt next time out, while giving his opponents a ray of hope.
"Tiger's good, but he could always have a bad day," Yang said. "Guess this is one of those days."
Powered by WordPress.com VIP