Tiger Woods has made enough double bogeys in his career to understand anything in golf is possible, especially in the U.S. Open.
But two on the same hole with a pair of fluffed chips in successive rounds? That’s a stat that won’t make the cut when it comes time to review Woods’ spectacular career.
Woods didn’t make the cut Friday, either, which was surprising only to his most sycophantic fans. His game was spotty coming in, and if he had to play Winged Foot every week of his pro career he might still be looking for his first win.
He missed fairways and he missed putts. He likely missed the thousands of fans who would have cheered his every move and maybe even have gotten him moving in the right direction, had they been allowed to attend.
About the only thing he didn’t miss was the private jet that was his ticket away from the nightmare that, for him, is Winged Foot.
Woods has played the course eight times in three major championships, missing the cut twice and shooting a combined 29-over-par. On Friday he struggled to break 80, which is pretty much the mark where things start to get embarrassing.
Not that Woods was alone with his 7-over 77. Rory McIlroy shot a 76 after opening with a 67, and Jordan Spieth made a mess of everything with a second-round 81 that sent him packing.
And then there’s Phil Mickelson, who at the age of 50 might consider playing the PGA Tour Champions more often in the future. Mickelson, who famously made double bogey on the final hole in 2006 to throw away an Open, shot 79 in his opening round and never looked back.
Winged Foot is brutally tough, so exacting with gnarly rough and treacherous greens that just six players are under par halfway through. If history is any indication, the USGA will tighten the screws even more on the weekend and whoever can find a way to be at even par at the end will end up hoisting the Open trophy.
Still, Woods has played U.S. Opens his entire career. He’s beaten tough courses down, winning three times, including on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008.
But he never gave himself a chance at Winged Foot.
“On this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that,” Woods said.
At the age of 44 Woods is certainly still capable of making a ton of birdies. And his Masters win last year was one for the ages.
Put him on a tough course he doesn’t know as well as Augusta National, though, and things seem to get off track quickly. Not only was he lapped by much of the field this week but playing partner Justin Thomas beat him by 12 strokes.
You could almost hear the groans of dismay from the fans who weren’t there.
“It’s frustrating that I’m not going to be here for the weekend and be able to compete for this great championship,” Woods said. “It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship. I didn’t get myself that opportunity.”
About the only positive Woods can take out of it is that, unlike Winged Foot, there is very little rough at Augusta National, where he will defend his Masters title in November. He’ll also be defending his title next month in the ZoZo Championship at Sherwood Country Club, a course he knows well.
“We have a couple big, big things ahead of us,” he said.
Still, with each bad outing it starts looking more and more like that Masters win might have been the cap on his career rather than the beginning of a belated run at the majors record held by Jack Nicklaus.
Consider this stat for context: In the first 65 majors of his professional career, Woods missed a grand total of three cuts. Now he’s missed the cut in eight of his last 15.
A weekend without Woods won’t make anyone happy. No one boosts ratings like he does, and no one is more interesting to watch, even when he’s playing poorly.
Maybe the worst part about this weekend at Winged Foot was that he didn’t even give himself a chance.