Woods, who showed flashes of the brilliance that captivated fans and grew the popularity of the sport of golf, struggled through the final round of this weekend’s U.S. Open in which he shot a 75 to finish three strokes behind eventual winner Graeme McDowell.
If Woods hadn’t gone through his well-documented personal struggles this past offseason, his play this year would still be a big story. The fact is, though, his play has probably taken a backseat after his offseason found him on the cover of practically every tabloid known to man.
He started his season relatively late, and he’s certainly struggled at times. Woods and long-time swing coach Hank Haney decided to go their separate ways, and for now, Woods is working the kinks out of his swing on his own.
It hasn’t been easy either. Woods finished tied for 19th at Memorial after missing the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship and then withdrawing from the Players Championship with a back injury.
But despite the struggles on the course to find his game again, and the obvious struggles off of the course trying to find his life again, Tiger has been in the hunt in the events by which he truly measures the success of his seasons, and ultimately his career — majors.
As far as majors go, Tiger’s fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open comes on the heels of another fourth-place finish at the Masters in April. They’re not the finishes he wants, but it’s a start.
Still, while those finishes may look good, the overall numbers for those tournaments may be a bit deceiving.
Take this weekend’s U.S. Open for example. Woods came out on Saturday and took Pebble Beach by storm. He shot his lowest round of the tournament, a 2-under 69, and put himself only four shots off of the lead, and in the second-to-last group going into Sunday’s finale. It was another typical Tiger Woods “moving day” performance.
The tournament was definitely there for the taking for Woods. Had he been able to make an early run, putting up low numbers and making a charge on Sunday, the “Tiger effect” could have made its triumphant return. Even without Tiger charging, nobody else who started at the top of the leaderboard Sunday made a strong move.
While he finally started to put together his swing from off the tee, from the fairway, and around the green, it was his putting that likely did him in at the U.S. Open. Woods especially struggled with the flat stick on Sunday en route to six bogeys while missing out on multiple birdie opportunities.
He hit fairways and he hit greens, he just couldn’t hit enough putts when he needed him. All day Sunday he could be seen missing either a birdie putt that might give him some momentum or, worse, a putt that would save par and keep him from joining others who were giving away shots.
Fittingly, Woods finished his tournament with a missed birdie putt on the par-five 18th, an appropriate end to a weekend that turned into a missed opportunity.
Simply put, Tiger had as good a chance as anyone to win the tournament.
Maybe he’s still knocking off the rust. Maybe he’s just simply not the player he once was. Whatever the case may be, he showed us two things this weekend. First, he’s still got it at times. More importantly, though, he showed us that he’s still incapable of putting it all together for four consecutive rounds.
Until he does that, and until he wins a tournament, let alone a major tournament, he still won’t officially be “back.”