Tiger Woods opened his third round of the U.S. Open on Saturday with a birdie on the first hole, moving him to 2-over-par for the tournament and within three strokes of then-leaders Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel.
Unfortunately for Woods, that’s where the good times ended at Merion Golf Club.
Paired with Rory McIlroy for the third day in a row, and joined by Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Woods made seven bogeys the rest of the way, and carded a six-over 76. He now finds himself +9 for the tournament, 10 shots back of Mickelson and completely out of contention for his 15th career major.
How did this happen? Woods again found himself in the vicious U.S. Open rough several times on Saturday, missing three of his first four fairways. Making matters worse, his wedge game and putting really let him down and kept him from taking advantage of any scoring opportunities all day. Woods three-putted for bogey twice, and took 36 putts just to get around the course. His total of 96 putts for the week so far is just shy of the four-round totals from his wins at Doral (100) and Bay Hill (102) (stats courtesy ESPN.com).
“It is certainly frustrating because I certainly was feeling like I was playing well this week, and I just didn’t make the putts I needed to make,” Woods said in the post-round presser. “I just couldn’t get a feel for them. Some putts were slow, some were fast, and I had a tough time getting my speed right.”
Barring some kind of miraculous comeback on Sunday that would have to be paired with some epic collapses in front of him, Woods will have to wait until at least next month to play for The Open Championship. This Sunday, Woods will just have to get his putting game back in line and try to make a respectable showing.
Will he still get number 15? I think so, and these majors are really, really hard to win. But every time one slips away, you have to wonder just how many more chances he’ll get.