PITTSFORD — Tiger Woods can rattle off a number of reasons he has struggled so mightily this week. For one, his takeaway is just a fraction off, and that has thrown his whole swing out of whack. He’s also been “blocking” his putts, which has stymied his short game.
But the way he sees it, his troubles come down to one thing.
“That’s golf,” Woods said after shooting a 3-over-par 73 Saturday at the PGA Championship. “We don’t play well every week.”
He is the No. 1 player in the world. He was the 7-2 favorite to win this tournament. He claimed the Bridgestone Invitational one week ago, his fifth PGA Tour victory of 2013.
Woods was back – well, sort of. There were, of course, the people who brought up that one daunting stat: Woods has not won any of the last 21 majors.
Saturday’s struggles made it safe to predict that number will soon be 22. At 4-over for the tournament, he is 13 shots back of leader Jim Furyk.
“It was hard for me,” Woods said. “I didn’t play very well today. I didn’t hit it very good, didn’t make anything, kept blocking every putt. So it was a tough day.”
And as for the week as a whole?
“Not joyous, that’s for sure,” Woods said. “It’s just one of those weeks where I didn’t quite hit it well enough and didn’t make enough putts.”
It’s just one of those weeks, he said, but not because of the location; Woods has repeatedly said he loves playing at Oak Hill Country Club. And though he finished 12-over in the PGA Championship here in 2003 and has struggled again this year, he didn’t blame Oak Hill for his struggles and was quick to defend it, saying, “this is a fantastic golf course,” after his round.
Woods was on the driving range Friday night with his coach, Sean Foley, working on his takeaway. It didn’t seem to help Saturday.
Woods bogeyed his first hole, the 460-yard par-4, a portent of things to come. He bogeyed three more holes after that (Nos. 3, 16 and 17) with a birdie on the par-3 No. 11 as his lone highlight of the day.
A crowd cheered as Woods approached No. 11. He maintained a steely gaze on the ground, and when he didn’t acknowledge the fans, one shouted, “Oh Tiger, you’re so nice to people!”
It was quite different from the reception Phil Mickelson received throughout the day. The affable, politician-like Mickelson received loud applause and shouts of “let’s go, Phil!” at every hole. When he birdied No. 12, you’d have thought he had just won the tournament. Fans cheered wildly; ‘Lefty’ grabbed the brim of his cap in thanks, then underhand tossed a golf ball into a section of fans.
The cheery moment was not illustrative of his day. If Woods is limping through this week, Mickelson is squirming.
Mickelson fired an 8-over-par 78 Saturday to move to 10-over for the tournament, tying his worst-ever round in a PGA Championship. This is his 21st consecutive year competing in the tournament.
Mickelson’s struggles were never more evident than on the par-4 10th hole, where he took his second shot from the heavy rough, 424 yards out. His ball traveled about five feet. The video of his meek shot made the rounds on social media after Deadspin picked it up.
The British Open champ finished with five bogeys, one double bogey and one triple bogey.
Mickelson didn’t talk to the media after his round, but it’s reasonable to believe that the explanation Woods offered for his off week could apply to world No. 2, as well: That’s golf.