- Tiger Woods needed to get off to a hot start on Saturday at Pebble Beach, but a bogey on the first hole set the tone for a day where he didn't make up any ground.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — There will be no Pebble Beach drama for Tiger Woods. There will be no reprise of the 2000, when Tiger had his most Tiger tournament ever. There will be no runback of 2010, when he blocked out the noise from his scandal and teed off on Sunday with a chance to win.
For Woods, the final round of the U.S. Open will be little more than a chance to shoot a nice score and collect a nice check. He assured as much with an even-par 71 on Saturday, a round that saw him stay put when he needed to be upwardly mobile to have any chance. He’s even par after 54 holes, a score that would put you near the lead in most editions of this tournament. This, however, is not one of those U.S. Opens—he was nine back of the lead when he signed his scorecard and will be making the turn by the time the leaders tee off on Sunday.
“I've had my chances to post good rounds today, this week,” Woods said, insinuating that he did take those chances. “Today was a perfect example.”
On the bright side: There are way worse places to play a borderline meaningless round of golf than Pebble Beach.
When he started the day nine back, Woods was “still in it,” as he likes to put it, but just barely. He needed to get off to a hot start for two reasons. First, and this is true for any golf course in the world, you want to see a few birdies go in to build confidence and momentum. Second, and this is special to Pebble, because the first seven holes here are susceptible to birdies. The rest of the course, not so much. Woods knows this, of course. He won a tournament here by 15 shots.
The first hole is as gettable as any. The opening tee shot at Pebble might be the most uninteresting opening tee shot of any elite golf course in the world. It’s a 4-iron, slightly uphill, to a generous landing area. You aim it at the bunker and you make a solid swing and you have a wedge into the green. There’s nothing tricky about it. A “handshake start,” as they say. So if Woods was going to start moving on Moving Day, this would be a great place to start.
Instead, he tugged an iron into the left rough, hacked out short of the green, pitched to 14 feet and missed the par effort. Bogey.
The second hole is as difficult as the first is easy. It’s a par 5 for those who pay $500 to play here and also for the AT&T Pro-Am, but it’s been converted to a par 4 for this week. Woods hit two perfect shots to give himself an ideal, uphill look at birdie. A 3 there would be stealing a shot on the field and make up for the bogey at 1. That, too, missed. He threw away two shots to begin a round where he couldn’t afford to throw away any.
Adding insult to injury: He bogeyed the manageable third to drop to two over through 3.
“I got off to a crap start,” Woods told FOX after the round. “I was two over through 3. Those are supposed to be easier holes. I’m a couple over and have to fight back the rest of the day.
“I was able to claw back a round of even par, which is pretty good.”
Woods did well to play the rest of the round in two under, and there were a number of bright spots. He made just four birdies over the first two rounds here; he made five on Saturday. And while saying Tiger Woods never quits is offensively redundant at this point, it bears repeating: he never gave up. After his fifth bogey of the day at 15, he birdied 16 and 18 to avoid shooting an over-par score.
Woods can still backdoor his way to a top 10. That’s definitely in the cards. But this will be the second straight major after his Masters victory that he will not be a serious factor on Sunday. At least here he will be playing here on Sunday, unlike Bethpage.
Yes, he will play and he will grind and he very well might shoot something in the 60s, but he will not win. And with Tiger Woods, that’s really all that matters.