He has 57 PGA Tour victories, a yacht, a chiseled bod and more money than he could print. So, the man has a few things going for him.
But there is a chink in his otherwise polished armor that has become increasingly obvious this year. He is not good in traffic. The fact was boldly underlined again on Sunday at the Oakmont Country Club. Another U.S. Open golf course was having its way with another elite field, swatting away world-class players like flies, as if for sport.
This penal property in western Pennsylvania gave up a total of eight red scorecards over four days. And as far as the USGA is concerned, eight is enough. The average score for all rounds was nearly 76, or 6-over par, music to golf’s governing ears.
And once again, as he did at Augusta National two months back, the game’s No. 1 honcho had assumed the position.
El Tigre announced his presence in the tournament with a third-round 69 that was scary close to being a 65. The papa-in-waiting appeared to be dialed in for another memorable Sunday stroll around a major championship venue.
Who was to say otherwise — Aaron Baddeley? The 26-year old Australian was in the final pairing with Woods and brandishing a two-shot lead. But that was like Daniel entering the lions den with a cap gun. Predictably, Baddeley responded, well, badly.
He started the day with the rare Reverse Van de Velde. To explain, Frenchman Jean Van de Velde gave up the 1999 British Open when he triple-bogeyed the final hole on Sunday. Baddeley got it out of the way earlier, triple-bogeying the first hole.
Just one hole into the day, Woods had a piece of the lead. Game over, turn out the lights, check please.
But there’s this strange quid pro on Woods’ glittery resume. He is 12 for 12 in majors when he has the lead or share of it coming into the final round. But he is 0 for 29 in majors now as a professional when he comes into Sunday without a piece of the 54-hole lead. As a closer, he is somewhere between Secretariat and plowhorse.
Yet, Woods, an owner of four green jackets, didn’t take advantage. He shot a pedestrian 72 and stood down while little-known Zach Johnson slipped in the Butler Cabin door with a 69. Wait a minute, Yogi. Oakmont was déjà vu all over again.
Again, Woods’ victory seemed like a foregone conclusion. Again, Woods shot a 72. Again, a little known golfer with no major championship heritage, Angel Cabrera, scurried past with a 69.
After the Argentinean Cabrera made par at 18 and posted his round, Woods had three holes in front of him to make up a one-shot difference, three chances at a birdie that would send the U.S. Open into a Monday playoff, a format in which he owns a 2-0 record. Strike one at 16, strike two at 17, strike three at 18.
“Finishing second is never fun,” Woods said. “You play so hard … it’s just disappointing. I’ve won two of the last four majors, so it’s not terrible, but it could be better.”
View photographs from the 2007 U.S. Open in Pennsylvania.
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