A bogey-bogey finish put a dent into the championship aspirations of Tiger Woods Friday at Pebble Beach Golf Links. But don’t count out the three-time U.S. Open champion just yet.
Over the years there have been several courses where Woods can figure out how to manage his game and compete, whether he is in top form or not. Augusta National Golf Club is one, where in April he won the Masters for a fifth time. Firestone, Bay Hill and Torrey Pines, where he won the 2008 U.S. Open with one healthy leg, are others. He has won eight times at each venue.
Pebble Beach has been good to him, too. Of course, there was the 2000 U.S. Open, where he won by a record 15 shots, but that same year he also won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am by coming from seven shots down with seven holes to play.
Currently, he trails 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose by seven strokes after his 1-over 72 left him at even-par 142 for the championship. Too much of a deficit? Hey, there’s a reason there used to be a 10-shot rule for the cutline in this championship. A 10-stroke deficit through 36 holes is not too much to overcome. That's not to say it will be easy. But he's easily within the margin of error.
“Yeah, right now I'm still in the ballgame,” said Woods, 43, who admitted he was feeling “a little hot” after his unusually sloppy finish to the second round. “There's so many guys with a chance to win. We've got a long way to go, and, you know, we'll see how it shapes up for tomorrow.”
Mostly forgotten or overlooked is what Woods accomplished in 2010, finishing T-4 in the championship after coming in with just 13 competitive rounds under his belt for the season. Woods was in better shape then, joint 25th, than he is after two rounds this time, but he wasn’t quite in the mix. Then he fired a 5-under 66 and began the final round in third place.
It goes without saying that there is much at stake this week in the 119th U.S. Open, given that it’s a major championship and the third major of the year. For Woods, however, every start is potentially a chance to make more history, and this week is no exception.
Should Woods win this week at Pebble Beach, he would surpass Bob Jones for the most USGA titles with 10. He also would join Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Willie Anderson with his fourth U.S. Open triumph.
Another prize, which might be of particular interest to the Golden Bear faithful, is a 16th major, which would draw Woods one closer to Nicklaus’ all-time mark of 18 major titles. And he would tie Sam Snead for most wins all-time on the PGA Tour with his 82nd career victory, though Woods long ago passed Slammin’ Sam for most individual wins.
There’s more. Woods, ranked No. 5 in the world, would become the second player since World War II to win two U.S. Opens on the same course, joining Nicklaus, who won at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J., in 1967 and 1980. Willie Anderson, whose name is getting tossed around a lot this week, also won twice on the same track – in 1901 and ’05 at Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Mass.
Here’s something truly remarkable: Woods could become the first man in history to win each of the four majors on the same course twice. He has won two of his three Open Championships at the Old Course at St. Andrews and two of four PGA Championships at Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 course. And, of course, he has those five Masters titles.
When Woods won the Masters in April, he tied Henry Cotton, Julius Boros, Hale Irwin and Ben Crenshaw for the longest span between major wins, dating to his 2008 U.S. Open triumph at Torrey Pines. Win this week, and he’d again tie Boros and Irwin, this time with the longest span between U.S. Open victories. Boros won in 1952 and ’63, and Irwin’s second and third U.S. Open titles came in 1979 and ’90.
A lot of meaning to the proceedings these next two days on the Monterey Peninsula. Nothing that Tiger Woods hasn’t been used to for a long time. And nothing he doesn't welcome.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to usopen.com and usga.org.