UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash.—There was no bright side, no moral victory, no legitimate consolation for Tiger Woods at Chambers Bay as he exited the 115th United States Open on an otherwise splendid Friday afternoon.
Not like Thursday when he quipped, “At least I kicked Rickie’s butt today.” Tiger shot 80, Fowler shot 81. Ha-ha, very amusing.
The difference between those rounds was that Fowler just had a bad day while Woods played the way he’s been playing of late. Friday’s last laugh, if there was one to be had (and c’mon, there wasn’t), belonged to Fowler He posted 73 to Tiger’s 76.
Woods said he hit his irons better in the second round but “couldn’t make a putt.”
That stats bear that out. Nobody in the Open field is enjoying Chambers Bay’s splotchy, bouncy greens and nobody enjoyed them less than Tiger, who amassed 73 putts in two rounds, including six three-putts.
LEADERBOARD: All The Scores From Round 2 at Chambers Bay
Take those numbers with a grain of salt, however. Really, how does the walking scorer who goes along with the threesomes tell where the fine fescue grass greens end and the fairway begins? Do they have to bend down and look for those tiny little white paint dots that serve as the mowing line? If putting is Tiger’s only issue, then tell the marching band to strike up, “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Tiger’s game is in tatters but you can tell this is a new Tiger. He stopped to talk to the media, was as pleasant as you could be after missing the cut by a million (and especially after having shot yet another humiliating 80-something round this year).
Today’s humorous remark was about his round: “I wanted to shoot five or six today but I wanted to be on the other side of it (under par),” he said with a smile after shooting six over par. “I hit it a little better but again, I made nothing.”
Maybe all you really needed to know about Friday’s round was his opening hole, the par 4 10th. Tiger found the fairway with his tee shot (a 3-wood), one of 16 fairways he hit in two days.
That was a good start, some fans must have been thinking. Maybe Tiger has got it together today after yesterday’s debacle, they must have been thinking. Then he pulled his approach shot Way The Heck Let, halfway up a steep hill in the wavy golden brown fescue. It was a definite “Wow!” shot. As in, Wow, that was bad.
Further embarrassment awaited. Tiger climbed the hillside with the dexterity of a seasoned Sherpa guide but while standing behind his ball to size up the shot, his foot slipped and he fell on his derriere (that’s French for ass). It all happened quickly and Tiger braced his fall instinctively with his gloved left hand. He may have tweaked that left wrist—nobody got a chance to ask him about it after he finished—but later in the round, cameras showed him gingerly removing his glove to putt on a one green, indicating he may have dinged it. If he did, he certainly didn’t use it as an excuse.
His first reaction upon getting back up was to brush the dirt off his rear end but realizing that this whole episode was already going to be viral, he thought better of it.
The shot from the hillside was stupid-crazy hard. A bad lie, a worse stance and it was downhill to a firm green on which he had short-sided himself. It took a darned good pitch to keep it on the far side of the green. Tiger two-putted for bogey from there, the best he was going to do after that errant approach, and that was the first of the day’s eight bogeys. If you’re desperately searching for upside, well, his lag putt for par was well done. This was a day of small victories, and there were few of those.
In 36 holes, Tiger racked up three birdies. When he finished, which was when the afternoon half of the field was going out, he was among the bottom four 36-hole scores completed at the Open. He was at 156 with Lucas Glover, Darren Clarke was at 157 and the afore-mentioned Fowler, whose butt went unkicked on this day, was at 153. Check it out—the bottom four featu
red three major champions and the reigning Players champion. What’s there to say? Tiger’s game is still going the wrong direction or, at best, has not yet turned around.
“On a course like this, you get exposed,” Woods admitted. “You have to be precise and dialed in. Obviously, I didn’t have that. Obviously, I need to get a little better for the British Open. I’ll keep working at it.”
He claimed to be excited about the rest of his summer schedule, which features him playing about every other week. We’ll let him have that one because his recent play would be difficult to get fired up about. Tiger was 16 over par for two days and as he left Chambers Bay midway through the second round, he was 21 shots off the lead. More telling, perhaps, he was 13 shots off the projected cut-line.
The distraction that is Tiger won’t be here on the weekend. The first-round 80 and the topped 3-wood and semi-shanked 6-iron, the second-round 76 and the embarrassing tumble on a duneside, that’s all gone.
The Open moves on and somehow, Tiger has to, also.