LYTHAM St. ANNES, England— The enduring image of Tiger Woods from this British Open will be of him bent over on one knee, his other leg angled to the side, as he desperately tried to save his day with a miracle shot from deep in a bunker off the sixth green. His adventure in the sand led to a triple bogey 6, though perhaps even more fatal to his chances were the three consecutive bogeys he made on the back nine when his mind seemed to wander elsewhere.
He once seemed able to figure out ways to win majors like no other player could. Now Woods figures out ways to lose them, including two within the space of the last month or so that the Tiger of old might have run away with.
Another wasted opportunity, another weekend blown. He’s still stuck at 14 major championships.
We judge him too harshly, yes, but only because he was once so great. Still could be if all the stars should align, though there still seems to be something missing from this version of Tiger Woods than the one who won on one leg at Torrey Pines in 2008, a time that must seem so long ago for him.
He analyzes things more than the Tiger of old, who simply went out and played golf. This one comes in with a game plan, but has no Plan B when it goes awry.
Blame it on stubbornness, or the arrogance that comes with being the only golfer who will ever chase Jack Nicklaus in the record books. Nicklaus himself sometimes fell into the same trap, mapping out a game plan and never veering from it despite changing conditions.
Ernie Els reached out Sunday and grabbed this Open, snatching it from Adam Scott. Woods tried to win – and lost – by playing it safe.
Of little consolation to Woods was that he moved up to No. 2 in the world rankings he used to dominate with his tie for third, with 3-over-par 73 that was his best finish in a major since he lost to Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship.
But he’s still winless in the last 17 majors. He’s still four majors short of tying Nicklaus, exactly where he was four years ago at Torrey Pines when it seemed a foregone conclusion he would someday be crowned the greatest golfer ever.