PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Forty minutes before the last group of the day began play, Tiger Woods putted out for an even-par 70 Sunday in the final round of the 95th PGA Championship, wrapping up another indifferent major championship for the man who has won 14 of them.
Now the world No. 1 will have to wait until next April to resume his hunt to capture a Golden Bear.
The passage of time in majors has not been kind for Woods in his pursuit of the record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus. When Woods steps to the first tee at Augusta National next year in the Masters, he will be 70 months removed from last hoisting major championship hardware at the 2008 U.S. Open.
With rounds of 71-70-73-70 on the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club, Woods, a five-time winner this season, finished well down the leaderboard at 4 over. While he’s finished in the top-six nine times, including a tie for fourth in this year’s Masters and a tie for sixth in the British Open, he has gone 18 majors without a victory.
“Is it concerning?” a dejected Woods said when asked about not winning a major in more than five years. “No. 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.”
For the year, he broke 70 once in 16 rounds of majors and hasn’t broken 70 in 16 consecutive weekend rounds in majors. Putting woes have been his major nemesis in the last two rounds of majors for some time. This week, however, he fought his swing, saying his takeaway was a fraction off.
“Well, I put four good rounds together last week; unfortunately it wasn’t this week,” Woods said, referring to his seven-shot romp in winning the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational last week. “Didn’t seem to hit it as good and didn’t make many putts until the last few holes (Sunday). But I didn’t give myself many looks and certainly didn’t hit the ball good enough to be in it.
“ ... Having a chance on the back nine on Sunday, I can live with that. It’s always frustrating going out there, and I’m 3 over (Sunday), got to 7 (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.”
As will be his quest to catch and surpass Nicklaus. Woods will be 38 next year and said he still has time to win more majors and remains steadfast in his confidence in winning five more to surpass Nicklaus. What bodes well for Woods is that the last three champions of the British Open were all in their 40s when they hoisted the Claret Jug – Darren Clarke in 2011, Ernie Els in 2012 and Phil Mickelson this season. And two of the last five Masters champions were at least 39.
In all, 27 players have won majors in their 40s, with Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Old Tom Morris, Julius Boros and Mark O’Meara winning multiple majors. And Hogan won five after turning 38, Nicklaus four.
In part, that’s one of the reasons why Woods said he is not pressing in majors.
“As far as the overall game plan and the way I’m playing, I’ve been there in enough of these things where I’ve been right there in the back nine on Sunday with a chance,” Woods said.
For now, Woods said he will take a few days off and “try and keep up” with his two kids, Sam and Charlie, before resuming practice. And he won’t be thinking ahead to next year’s trip to Augusta.
“We have a long way to go to do that, and I have a lot of golf to play between now and then, not just the rest of our season but overseas as well and beginning of next year,” Woods said.
When he does start thinking about the majors, he should smile as the lineup looks appetizing: the Masters, which he has won four times, most recently in 2005; the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort, where he finished second in 2005 and in a tie for third in 1999; the British Open at Royal Liverpool, where he won in 2006; and the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club, where he won 2000.
Then again, there used to be a time when any major looked enticing to Woods.
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