Make birdie at either No. 17 or 18 and force a playoff.
Birdie them both and the U.S. Open trophy rides home in the back seat of the car that carried Tiger Woods out onto Hulton Road late Sunday afternoon and away from Oakmont Country Club.
No matter what club he’s holding, once he settles over a shot, there’s nobody in the game you would rather put money on. Yet just like the final round at the Masters two months ago, where he played in the final pairing and held his fate in his hands, Woods was flat out of magic.
And like Augusta, too, where winner Zach Johnson finished before Woods did and wouldn’t take his eyes off a locker room TV to be sure there were no more miracles, about-to-be-crowned U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera sat glued in front of a television set in the clubhouse.
Woods’ final stab at a tie was a triple-breaking 30-footer above the flag with eight feet of break to the cup.
“It’s not like I could hit it inside right, firm,” Woods said, the hint of a smile playing on his lips. “It was a putt I had to die, and if it gets anywhere below the hole it could run off the ridge.”
It was never close. Instead, he tapped in for a 2-over-par 72, a 286 total and a tie for second with Jim Furyk.
In the last four majors, Woods has gone 1-1-2-2, a remarkable run for anyone else. But alongside the dozen majors that make up the most glittering resume in pro golf are now 30 in which Woods has failed to win coming from off the pace. Asked whether it was fair to hold that against him, he blinked.
“Well,” he said simply. “I haven’t.
“I haven’t gotten it done. Put myself there,” Woods added, his voice lowering, “and haven’t gotten it done.”
It’s easy in hindsight to pick a half-dozen shots that would have made the difference. Woods said he wouldn’t go there, either — at least not anytime soon.
Woods led the field in greens in regulation, practically staging a clinic Saturday by hitting every one of the first 17 en route to a 69 that left him trailing third-round leader Aaron Baddeley by two and sent a chill down the collective spine of the rest of the field.
After just one hole Sunday, it was apparent why. Woods made a nonchalant par and Baddeley made triple-bogey. Right about then, a sense of deja vu enveloped everyone out on the course — save Tiger himself.
“Just because Badds made 7 on the first hole, we still have 17 more to go,” he said. “It’s not like they’re handing out the trophy on the first green.”
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