- It'll be the fifth time Woods has failed to play the weekend in his last seven major starts.
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Tiger Woods made the rest of the world jealous by docking his 155-foot, $20 million yacht in nearby Sag Harbor for this week’s U.S. Open. He might well keep Privacy—or his “dinghy," as he calls it—posted in the Hamptons this weekend. But if he does, it'll be a personal choice rather than a professional necessity. In all likelihood, he’ll fire up the jet and leave Southampton as soon as Friday afternoon, just as the mass of wealthy New Yorkers make their weekly pilgrimage to this idyllic summer hangout.
Woods will almost certainly miss the cut at the U.S. Open after shooting 72 on Friday for a two-day total of 10-over at Shinnecock Hills. It’ll be the fifth time Woods has failed to make the weekend in his last seven major starts. For context: In the 65 majors he competed in as a professional before the 2014 PGA, he missed the cut exactly three times.
"I'm not very happy with the way I played and the way I putted," Woods said. "I'm 10 over par. So I don't know that you can be too happy and too excited about 10 over par."
One thing Tiger hasn’t lost through all these years and all these surgeries is his capacity to grind. Woods birdied 8 and 9, his last two holes of the day, to give himself any chance of earning a Saturday tee time. But he left his fate in the hands of players with afternoon tee times and with Mother Nature. Once the latter relented—the rain stopped and winds died down as the afternoon wore on—the former didn't cooperate.
As far as X’s and O’s go, there are no shortage of reasons why this happened. He drove the ball well enough, but when he missed, he missed big. His bunker play was sloppy. His wedges were indifferent. Most consequently, his recent putting struggles persisted. He didn’t make anything outside 10 feet until his final two holes on Friday and generally looked uncomfortable holding that iconic Scotty Cameron.
But it doesn’t take a Bryson DeChambeau-level golf officianado to identify where this tournament got away from the 14-time major champion: the relatively benign, 399-yard opening hole.
Woods’ first start in a U.S. Open since 2015 could not have gotten off to a worse start. After finding the fairway with his first tee shot on Thursday—often a difficult proposition for him in major championships—he airmailed the green, failed on a flop-shot attempt and ultimately made a triple-bogey 7. He followed that up with a bogey on the par-3 2nd, a 250-yard nightmare-inducer, to put himself four-over after a half-hour.
He would rally to play the next holes in one-under but made a bogey and two doubles on the back to come in with eight-over 78. It was a higher score than he would have liked and a higher one than he probably deserved, but it wasn’t a tournament ender. That’s how hard a wind-swept Shinnecock played on Thursday. Rory McIlroy shot 80, Jason Day 79, Jordan Spieth 78 and Phil Mickelson 77 as the field averaged roughly 76.6.
Ever the optimist, Woods said he could shoot himself right back into the tournament with something in the 60s.
On Friday, Woods once again headed to the first tee at even par for the round. The difference was that he had already played nine holes, as the supergroup of Woods, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas started on the 10th tee in the second round. Once again, he found the fairway, and the stage was set for a solid second nine.
Any chance of shooting something in the 60s all but expired with his subsequent second shot. Woods hit a short iron as far right as possible without qualifying as a you-know-what, then hit his chip from the fescue over the green. When all was said and done, it was his third double-bogey of the week. He needed 13 shots to play the first hole over the two days.
"It was tough out there," he said. "It was raining a little bit, and I was kind of hanging in there until, unfortunately, the first and second hole kind of derailed it."
It’s important not to lose perspective here, and just being healthy enough to make violent lashes at balls in the weeds is a victory for Woods. Just one year ago, it seemed distinctly unlikely. But Woods’ strong play in the early stages of this latest comeback—the T-2 at Valspar, the top 5 at Bay Hill—raised expectations. Now he’s trending in the wrong direction. After posting three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, Woods’ last four finishes before this week are as follows: T-32 (Masters), T-55 (Quail Hollow), T-11 (Players), T-23 (Memorial).
While he was laboring, Woods had an up-close view of Johnson’s tour-de-force performance. Perhaps that made it all hurt just a little more. Johnson was in complete control from the very first tee shot. He launched 320-yard, one-foot cuts into the fairways on autopilot. On the off times he put himself out of position, he showed a newfound willingness to take his medicine. And he’s judged Shinnecock’s tricky Poa annua greens better than anybody.
"Dustin was in complete control of what he's doing," Woods said in earnest. "He's hitting the ball so flush and so solid. I know it's windy, it's blustery, it was raining early. But he's hitting right through it."
Johnson’s four-under performance was worthy of his world No. 1 ranking. He earns an A+ in How to Play the U.S. Open 101.
All the while Woods trudged along, often muttering to himself, watching a player overpower a golf course the way he used to.