In 1996, Tiger Woods, then an amateur, shot a 77 – the worst score of his U.S. Open career.
Then Thursday happened.
Woods started Chambers Bay about as poorly as reasonably possible, bogeying four of the first six holes. Things didn’t get much better, either. Woods shot an 80 – his third time shooting in the 80s this season – and finished the day tied for 152nd.
He has virtually no chance of making the weekend cut.
“I feel sorry for him right now,” former Ryder Cup captain and 1993 PGA Championship winner Hal Sutton said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I know he’s searching. He can’t really find it. Every day is a new experience, and I can guarantee he’s going to the golf course and hoping something clicks for him.”
As Brandon Tierney observed, nobody wants to bury Woods. Nobody wants to say his career is over. But he’s 39 years old, he hasn’t won a major in seven years, and – at least lately – he’s been embarrassing himself on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. Heck, two weeks ago, he shot a third-round 85 at the Memorial – his highest score as a pro – and finished with a 14-over-302, the highest 72-hole score of his career.
Woods’ best days certainly seem far, far behind him, but what advice would Sutton give him?
“I’d tell him he’s got to have level hips through the impact area,” Sutton said. “He’s just going under the ball. His legs are way too active and he’s got to get on top of the golf ball again. I don’t see him doing that. I don’t think he’s asking anybody that really knows, to be quite honest with you.”
Sutton then got technical.
“His hip’s dropping because his legs are too active,” he explained. “His legs are going too fast. When you try to get to your left side too fast, then your right hip drops and that gets you under the ball, and then you’ve got to flip your hands in order to catch impact. You got to slow your body down – after it’s already gone too far – and flip your hands. And (nobody) knows what you’re going to get from there. You could get anything from there.”
Woods has gotten exactly that. His shots are going everywhere – and he doesn’t seem to have any answers.
Of course, the problem, as Sutton explained, could be as much mental as it is physical.
“Let me tell you where this all starts, in my opinion,” Sutton said. “When Tiger came out there and was setting everything on fire, he was the longest player out there. All of a sudden, he’s not the longest player out there – and that’s hard to accept. He’s trying to stay up with everybody else and be the cutting edge, so to speak. As we get older, that gets harder to accept – that maybe I’m not going to be that. He just doesn’t want to accept that. He’s still great and can do great things if he’ll live with who he is instead of who he wants to be.”