Tuesday 12 December 2017

Woods' US Open plans in tatters after meltdown at Memorial

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during the final round of the Memorial Tournament
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during the final round of the Memorial Tournament

William S Callahan

JUST when it seemed Tiger Woods had recovered his aura of invincibility, it cracked and fell asunder over an astonishing weekend on one of his favourite stamping grounds, Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

World No 1 Woods had been a hot favourite to accept the Memorial trophy from host Jack Nicklaus for a sixth time after four victories on the PGA Tour this season, including three out of his last four events.

Even after a slipshod second-round 74 left him wallowing 10 off the halfway lead, Tiger was expected to charge back into contention over the weekend ... nobody, least of all Woods, could have predicted what happened next.

Starting at hole 10 on Saturday, Tiger began the weekend by posting his worst nine-hole score as a pro, a nightmarish 44 shots in which he conceded eight strokes to par. He staunched the bleeding somewhat on the front nine, playing it in level-par 36 for a disastrous 79.


Though he recovered from another calamitous start to his final round yesterday to sign off with an even-par 72. Yet in a tie for 65th on eight-over, 20 strokes behind winner Matt Kuchar, Tiger no longer looks a shoo-in for his 15th Major title (and first since 2008) at next week's US Open in the squeaky tight confines of Merion.

The rot started in his third round on the par-three 12th, where Woods had to play out sideways from an awkward downhill lie at the back of a greenside bunker and then three-putted for a double-bogey five.

An ugly seven followed on the par-five 15th and Tiger's short game was found wanting again as he made bogey at 17, followed by a treble-seven at the last. It looked as if someone had kidnapped Woods and put an impostor in his place.

Further nightmares awaited him at 12 yesterday. This time he flew his third tee shot of the day into the back bunker; knifed his escape through the green and took three to get down from the fringe for a treble-bogey six – again missing a short putt in the process.

It even made Rory McIlroy's recent travails look petty as Tiger slumped to another bogey at 14. He may have wanted the ground to open up and swallow him, but Woods, typically, kept fighting, making five birdies and just one more bogey in his final 12 holes.

After Thursday's 78, his worst opening round on the US Tour, McIlroy scraped through the cut on Saturday morning with a second-round 69.

Holywood's world No 2 then slumped to a 75 and was still struggling for consistency from tee to green and confidence in his putter during a final-round 72 which left him on six-over and just outside the top 50 in his final event before the US Open.

As he heads for this week's recon visit to Merion, McIlroy fears hitting his ball left, which caused him to miss a lot of shots to the right at Muirfield Village – a problem which was not as pronounced on his final nine holes yesterday. So he has cause to be grateful for simply playing all 72 holes at Memorial.

Kuchar held hard-charging Kevin Chappell at bay with a sweet birdie at the last hole of his final-round 68. Chappell matched that birdie and Kuchar's four-under final round to finish two back.

A bright light appeared at the end of a long tunnel for Damien McGrane in Sweden as the Kells man produced his best performance of a fraught season to claim a share of 14th on 12-under at the Nordea Masters.

Finn Mikko Ilonen (33) followed up on recent runner-up finishes in Morocco and China to capture his first European Tour title in six years.

McGrane (42) clicked into top scoring form with Friday's 67 and posted an impressive pair of 68s at the weekend to finish inside the top 20 for the first time in 2013. The €20,725 he banked pushed his earnings from 15 events this season into six figures.

After making the cut in his first European Tour event as a professional, Alan Dunbar (23) slid back to 66th on two-over after yesterday's 74, pocketing €3,300.

Irish Independent

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