Tiger Woods yesterday completed the 18th major since his last success in one of golf’s biggest four events, a barren run which is “messing with his mind” according to Nick Faldo.
Woods carded a closing 70 in the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill to finish four over par, the world No 1 playing the back nine in 32 despite a number of wild drives. The 37-year-old had come into the final major of the year fresh from shooting a second-round 61 en route to winning an eighth Bridgestone Invitational by seven shots last Sunday, his fifth victory this season. But he has now not tasted victory at a major since his triumph in the 2008 US Open and remains four short of matching the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. “It must be messing with his mind that he can’t finish the majors,” Faldo said while commentating for CBS. “This was nothing like what we expected after winning last week. He has been in more trees than Tarzan.”
Woods said: “I put four good rounds [together] last week, unfortunately it wasn’t this week. I didn’t seem to hit it as good and didn’t make many putts until the last few holes today.”
Asked about his winless streak in majors, Woods added: “Is it concerning? No. As I’ve said, I’ve been there in half of them, so that’s about right. If you are going to be in there three-quarters or half of them with a chance to win on the back nine, you have just got to get it done.
“I was right there and certainly had a chance to win the Masters and the British this year. The other two, I just didn’t hit it good enough. Just the way it goes.
“Having a chance on the back nine on Sunday, I can live with that. It’s always frustrating going out there and I’m three over today, got to seven over, and I’m grinding my tail off coming in just to shoot even par for the day. And I’m nowhere in it. That’s tough.”
Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy quickly saw their hopes of major glory extinguished in the final round. Paired together and six off the lead, the Ryder Cup team-mates would have been encouraged by what they saw from the early starters on a course playing 109 yards shorter than the first round and offering plenty of birdie chances. The par-five 13th was reachable in two for the first time after the tee was brought forward 38 yards and McIlroy’s fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell was one of those to take advantage with a 66 to finish two under.
But although McIlroy birdied the third from long range, the defending champion missed from just three feet for another on the next and then came unstuck on the treacherous fifth.
The par four had already seen triple-bogey sevens from Open champion Phil Mickelson and Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer when McIlroy’s approach spun back off the green and onto the rocks on the edge of the water surrounding the green. McIlroy was incredulous but had to troop over to the drop zone, from where he fired his fourth shot over the green and took three to get down to drop back to one under. Westwood had already bogeyed the second and double-bogeyed the third when he found water off the tee on the fifth, and although he managed to drop just one shot, another bogey on the seventh soon followed. The 40-year-old was seeking his first major title at the 63rd attempt after letting slip a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Open at Muirfield last month.
At the top of the leaderboard, Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner shared the lead on 10 under, Dufner having birdied the fourth and fifth and overnight leader Furyk holing from 35ft for an unlikely birdie on the sixth.
The final pair were threatening to pull away from the chasing pack, with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson closing the gap to one with an eagle from 20ft on the fourth but dropping a shot on the seventh to lie seven under.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s Marc Warren was in contention for a top-10 finish at the half-way point of his final round. Setting out yesterday at one-under, Warren was one under through the first nine and two under for the tournament, which had him in a share of 12th.
Compatriot Stephen Gallacher finished eight over for the tournament, but could hold his head high after shooting an impressive one-under 69 yesterday. Glasgow’s Scott Jamieson was in contention for a top-30 finish after shooting a one-over-par 71 to finish two over for the tournament.
Mickelson fails to build on Open joy
Phil Mickelson avoided going from first to last after making an early start in the final round of the 95th US PGA Championship at Oak Hill yesterday.
Mickelson found himself in the second group out at 8:25am following a third round of 78, a stark contrast to his Open Championship triumph at Muirfield last month.
The world No 2 looked in danger of finishing last of the 75 players who made the cut when he went to the turn in 39 with two birdies, one bogey, one double bogey and a triple bogey, but a back nine of 33 ensured he finished one shot better than compatriot Gary Woodland.
Mickelson, who was 21st in the Bridgestone Invitational last week, said: “I didn’t play very well the last two weeks. I’m not going to worry about it.
“I’m going to go just work on my short game at my home, just chip and putt, and then wait four or five days before I start hitting balls again because I want to forget these couple of weeks where I really haven’t struck it the way I had for a few months.
“I’ll look at some film from those events I played well and just try to do the same thing that I was doing.”
Mickelson’s Open win took him back to second in the world rankings behind Tiger Woods and raised hopes of some exciting duels between the pair but Woods also struggled here.