US Open: All eyes still on Tiger but the world No 1 dogged by hints of mortality in majors

 

Merion

It’s a long time since Tiger Woods began a competitive round at nearly tea-time and was still playing at 8.19pm when there was a hint of rain in the air and darkness was all around. It is a long time since Woods finished a round the better part of 17 hours after he had started it.

As opening rounds go, a 73, three over par, was by no means a bad start by Woods, who, as usual, dragged a large crowd around this dampened, gluey course.

It was six strokes worse than Phil Mickelson’s opening score but Woods probably thought it was early days. Still three rounds to go, he thought to himself.

He three-putted twice, missed a few others but, positive as ever, said he was not displeased. When your round is interrupted by a night’s sleep, when you play 10 holes one day and eight the next, a sense of jerkiness is inevitable.

The more so when less than two hours after you finish your first round, you are required to start your second, which was Woods’s lot yesterday morning. At times like this you might well wonder: ‘which day is it, which round am I playing and what hole am I on?’

Woods needs no reminding that he has not won a major championship for five years but others may have forgotten that it was at Torrey Pines, San Diego, in June 2008 that Woods won the US Open. Talk about water under the bridge since then. A torrent has passed. His four victories on in the US this year are more than anyone else. That much suggests the old Woods is back, at least in Tour events.

His occasional uncertainty off the tee and the demonstrations of bad luck and errors on the putting green that were present in his first round indicate that the old Woods is not back in major championships. Will he ever be? Will he equal Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 victories in professional major championships or even exceed it? It is getting harder by the day.

Once upon a time, Woods’s ball would not have pitched into the tufty grass overlooking a bunker, as it did on the 17th. It would have rebounded into the sand and presented him with a much easier shot, less delicate than the one he faced as his round neared its end yesterday.

He had his left leg out of the bunker, his right leg in it, and his ball was resting on a tall clump of grass, perhaps three inches off the ground. A shank was not out of the question. Nor was his clubhead passing completely under the ball and moving it only a few inches.

Actually, that is precisely the sort of position Woods in his pomp often found himself in. What wouldn’t have occurred before is what happened to Woods’s next shot this time.

His deft pitch, hit high to make sure it landed softly, caught the soft grass adjoining the 17th green perhaps six inches short of the spot at which he was aiming. The result was its progress ended immediately.

Had it gone that little bit further it would have landed on the green and begun a slow, downhill journey  towards the flagstick. Indeed, it might have ended in the hole.

Woods groaned audibly as he saw that he had missed his target by the width of one of his hands. That is the sort of thing that has always happened to mortals but rarely did so in the past to Woods.

Then, he would have brought off the deft recovery, landed the ball on a sixpence and probably saved his par. Now, he can’t, just as those putts that he used to will into the hole no longer obey his wishes.

No one hits the ball with such obvious downward force and clear venom as Woods but a lot players putt better than he does now. 

Nothing though diminishes his appeal. He was in a threesome that included Rory McIlroy, the world No 2, and Adam Scott, the heart-throb Aussie who won the Masters and is now ranked third in the world.

You could hardly ask for anything better than the three highest-ranked golfers in the world attacking a venerable golf course and barely managing to hold their own against it.

But most spectators had eyes only for Woods. “Where’s Tiger?”  “It’s Tiger!” “Who’s Tiger playing with” were comments you heard if you followed Woods. It’s a Woodscentric world all right.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas