Tiger Woods shoots his worst ever US PGA Championships score at Southern Hills
It used to be the day Tiger Woods took control of the majors. Now it is the one that underlines the marked limitations of his current physical state.
There is no shame in that, of course, given all that has happened, but it comes with sadness. At the Masters, the 46-year-old limped and shuddered his way into the third round with 78, his worst score at Augusta.
It was a similar story at the 104th USPGA Championship on Saturday, where he shot 79, his lowest score in this major, before bowing out of the final round on Sunday.
Moving day, you could call it, but for Woods, poignantly, the direction was downhill.
Tiger Woods couldn’t replicate the form he showed on Friday to make the weekend cut
Woods worked his way up and, in truth, it could have been even worse for him.
What a contrast to the excitement of the day before, when Woods overcame what turned out to be an epic battle to make it to the halfway point. “Given the pain he was obviously in, it was a monumental effort,” teammate Rory McIlroy said.
The problem is, all the evidence here and Augusta is that he takes too much away from Woods, there’s little left to give this weekend. He looked completely exhausted as he walked off the 18th green.
Woods clearly hadn’t been helped by the dramatic change in weather. When he walked out of the arena Friday afternoon, he was sweating buckets in the 90-degree heat.
When he returned on Saturday morning, he was wearing four layers and the temperature dial showed 13 degrees. Needless to say, it’s not what you want with a fused back and a battered right leg.
The former PGA champion said his body can no longer handle the full tournament schedule.
In the history of major golf championships, has there ever been a transformation like this? Not only the heat, but a storm that passed during the first few hours dumped almost two inches of rain, turning a course from hard as concrete to soft as sand.
Only to finish, the wind was blowing from a completely different direction. “Basically, we’re tackling a completely different golf course,” said Justin Rose.
Whatever the weather, it didn’t stop 40,000 people from bundled up in hoodies, arriving early and all heading in the same direction. Golf fans know it won’t be long before Woods steps down and he clearly wants to savor every last appearance.
On the opening hole, he hammered home a 15-foot par putt and drew many cheers when he did it. That, unfortunately, was as good as it got.
On the second hole, a creek running through the fairway wasn’t even in play for the first two days, but Woods found it. Then the problems started.
‘Is that in the bloody water?’ was his exasperated cry as another ball found a penalty area on the par-three 6. Given that the hazard was 20 yards from where his ball should have landed, it gives an idea of how tough the conditions were, plus Woods’ troubles. to moderate them.
Unfortunately, there were more errors, many more.
He will now focus on making sure he is fit enough to compete in the main championships alone.
On the par-four ninth, after driving into a bunker, he had no idea where his recovery shot had ended until caddy Joey LaCava pointed out that the ball was embedded in the face of a trap. He was allowed at least one free throw, but the bogey meant a front nine played in 41 shots.
It didn’t get much better. After three more bogeys in a row, it looked like there might be some slight relief at the par five 13, where the tee moved dramatically up to cut 100 yards from its previous length of 631 yards. At target height after two shots, Woods hone his chip shot in a similar spot on the other side of the green. It was like seeing a great actor standing on the stage, unable to deliver his lines.
His next chip ended up 10 feet further, and when he missed the putt for par, we had another sad statistic. In his 83rd major as a pro, this was the first time Woods had five bogeys in a row.
Truth be told, it seemed like there could be a few more, given the severity of the ending.
Instead, Woods found a bit of rhythm, stopping the rot with a par on the 14th and then sinking a 30-foot putt for his first and only birdie of the day. The relief on his face and among those in the audience was palpable. Three more pairs would follow.
Woods’ score of 79 in the third round was his worst total in the PGA Championship.
As he set off, midway leader Will Zalatoris began his warm-up. He started with a one-shot lead over Chilean Mito Pereira and three ahead of fellow American Justin Thomas, with McIlroy five behind and Matt Fitzpatrick six adrift.
The weirdest bogey you’ll see all year? That belonged to American Kramer Hickok on the par four 12.
In a fried egg lie in a greenside bunker in two, his recovery never got over the edge and he was back on his tracks. He never pulled the next one either.
At least for his third attempt he had a good lie. A perfect one, actually. On the ball he rolled, bouncing off the flagpole and falling underground.
“Honestly, the things this game puts you through,” said Sir Nick Faldo on American television.
Tiger and his Tulsa army will attest to that.
Meanwhile, the normally undemonstrative Matt Fitzpatrick indulged in a clenched-fist salute after birdieing the daunting 18th hole to earn a place in the bottom group for the final round on Sunday.
The 27-year-old from Sheffield has shown commendable patience in pursuit of his American debut and now has the chance to go major and become the first Englishman to win the Wanamaker Trophy since Jim Barnes way back in 1916.
Matt Fitzpatrick leads the English charge and fired a superb 67
Fitzpatrick posted a brilliant 67 in tough conditions to take his place in the top four with precisely no wins between them on the PGA Tour, although Fitzpatrick has won seven times on the DP World Tour.
Leading the way by three shots is Chile’s Mito Pereira, and fair game to anyone who predicted it. The 27-year-old from Santiago was so bored with golf when he was a teenager that he stopped playing for two years. He promises to be exciting enough today as the 100th ranked man in the world attempts to become the most shocking major winner since Shaun Micheel won this title nearly 20 years ago.
Joining Fitzpatrick in tied second is American Will Zalatoris, who overcame some early wobbles for a chance at a second straight Grand Slam victory for the Dallas players, following his friend Scottie Scheffler into the Masters. Rounding out a surprising leading quartet is exciting American rookie Cameron Young, who has already been runner-up three times this campaign.