The good ship “Privacy” is free to lift anchor this weekend, departing Sag Harbor for a more southern port. Its owner, Eldrick Woods, the golfer formerly known as Tiger, will have no further use of it here in the vicinity of the U.S. Open.
Perhaps, somewhere along its journey, a burial at sea would be in order. Certainly, there is a putter that deserves an unceremonious drowning.
Needing to discover some path to under-par in order to assure himself of making the Open cut, Woods instead shot a 2-over 72 on Friday. That’s 10 over for two days - and two strokes shy of the 8-over cut line - for those who need every gory detail.
“I’m not very happy with the way I played and the way I putted. I’m 10 over par. So, I don’t think you can be too happy and too excited about 10 over par,” he said.
“You don’t win major championships by kind of slapping all around the place and missing putts,” he said.
This was a devastating development for Fox Sports. There go all plans to show highlights of Woods’ last, dramatic major championship – the U.S. Open of a decade ago – at least a dozen more times.
All the dilettantes among the golfing audience – and their numbers are large – can now find other weekend diversions. Woods has left the building, taking with him that segment of one-man fans who were born with the Woods rise and whose interest now flickers along with his own competitive flame.
His return to the U.S. Open for the first time since 2015 was brief and uncomfortable. It began with a triple bogey on his first hole Thursday and ended with the ultimate tease - consecutive birdies on his final two holes Friday. Everything else in between was hardly worth celebrating.
Blame it on the short stick.
“Unfortunately, it’s just what I’ve done the last few events – I just haven’t putted well,” he said. “If I would have putted like I did the beginning of the year, with this ball striking, that would be ideal. Unfortunately, I just haven’t done that.” No, golf is not a greatest-hits album. It does not allow you to pick and choose the best parts of different periods.
That Woods was playing in the company of tournament leader Dustin Johnson made his struggles all the more glaring. The contrast between the player in command and the one in hand-to-hand combat with his game was side-by-side, for all to see. Head to head, the world’s No. 1 beat the man who once held that title for a record 281 consecutive weeks by 14 strokes over two days.
On Friday, beginning his round on the back nine, Woods opened with a promising birdie on the par-4 10th. Maybe in a misting morning rain he could find just enough of his old self to survive and advance into the weekend.
A par-save on No. 12, after a drive wild left into the waving fescue, was encouraging.
Still, after hitting a spotter in the leg with his drive and taking bogey on No. 18, he made his turn at 8 over par, precisely where he had begun the day. With the cut line at 6 over at that point (it had moved to 7 over later, not to settle on a number until day’s end), it was clear Woods needed to find some hard-to-come-by birdies.
Standing in his way was Shinnecock’s No. 1, a rather straight-forward 399-yard par 4. Yet it will go down as the one that Tiger-proofed this tournament. It was the hole where he took that opening 7 in the first round. And the hole that haunted him still Friday. His approach landed in a surly tangle of high grass right of the green. After a series of practice swings that covered his wedge in a grass skirt, Woods hit the next one through the green and still 73 feet from the pin. And he certainly wasn’t going to putt his way out of this one. A double bogey was the best he could do.
Twice he played the hole, to a combined 5 over. For the entire rest of the course, Woods was 5 over. Shinnecock No. 1 goes by the name Westward Ho. Woods may have some other little pet names for it.
As an encore, he bogeyed the par-3 second hole both days.
From that point, the emerging sun shined on the truth that Woods likely would not make the cut. Leaving him a walk of obligation for the rest of Friday.
And the talk of determination afterward. Give Woods this in his latest incarnation: He does not slink away after difficult losses. He knows how to perform the graceful exit, and perhaps could tutor LeBron James on how it’s done.
Still convinced you can win a 15th major, someone asked Woods.
“Have you seen the way I’ve been swinging?”
Ten events into his latest comeback from back surgery, Woods still must trade in subtleties, not scorecards.
He plans to take his recovering game to The National in Maryland in two weeks, and then on to the British Open on July 19. That yacht isn’t going to pay for itself.