Sport Golf

Saturday 17 March 2018

Karl McGinty

IT was just one of those weeks, Tiger consoled himself, as he headed home from Memorial, tail between his legs.

With four wins in just nine outings on the US Tour this year, Woods built up enough credit to shrug off one of his worst performances as a professional.

No golfer's played better than Tiger in 2013 and, after an exhibition of sublime course-management, self-control and putting at last month's Players Championship, his prospects looked good of winning that elusive 15th Major at next week's US Open.

However, even Woods – who hasn't won a Major title since the 2008 US Open – can ill-afford the sliver of self-doubt raised by his sudden and strangely inept performance over four days on super-slick greens at Muirfield Village.

The figures made ugly reading, especially Tiger's 79 on Saturday – his highest round score outside of the Majors.

A career-worst 44 strokes on the back nine that day was the low point of a week in which Woods completed his defence of the Memorial title in a share of 65th on eight-over – 20 behind winner Matt Kuchar.

Tiger hit all but 10 of 56 fairways, but missed at least five greens each day, including nine on Saturday, while his short game, especially his putting, left much to be desired.

"It happens," said Woods after recovering from a treble-bogey six out of a plugged lie in a back bunker at his third hole on Sunday to post a creditable even-par 72. "It happens to us all."

Rarely to Tiger, however. He hadn't endured 72 competitive holes as bad as this since slumping into a share of 78th on 18-over at the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational WGC at Firestone.

Next worst over four rounds was his 12-over finish at the 2003 PGA Championship, while Woods was 10-over-par at the 2004 and 1998 US Opens and 1999 British Open (though the latter was good enough for a top-10 finish in a gruelling week at Carnoustie).

In regular PGA Tour events, however, Sunday was Tiger's poorest finish against par since the 1998 Tour Championship and lowest position on the leaderboard after 72 holes since tying 67th at Memorial in 1997.

And remember, Woods had won five times as a professional at Muirfield Village, making it one of his favourite hunting grounds in golf.

Meanwhile, Woods is about to sign a new deal with Nike which, according to his agent, will "emphatically" keep him at the top of the leaderboard for golf endorsement contracts.

Nike have sponsored Woods since1996, when he signed a five-year deal for $40m. His ensuing contract was estimated at $100m over five years starting in 2001, similar to the $20m-per-annum deal Rory McIlroy reportedly accepted with the clothing a sports equipment giant last winter.

The new multi-year deal will ensure Tiger remains with Nike for his entire career.

Irish Independent

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