Making matters worse is this ominous factoid: Woods has never won a major coming from behind in the final round.
“I’m definitely still in the ball game,” Woods insisted. “I’m only five back and that’s certainly doable on this golf course, for sure.”
If it wasn’t doable for the old Tiger Woods, though, it’s hard to see how the new Tiger Woods can pull this one out. Not with doubts creeping back into his game, not with players ahead of him who long ago stopped being intimidated by the sight of him wearing red on Sunday.
Add in Lee Westwood, who is positively starved for a major, Ernie Els, and Jason Dufner, and Woods has some talent in front of him.
“I look on the leaderboard and I see Tiger’s name, but I see other great names there as well,” McDowell said.
And how about a name nobody had ever heard of outside Southern California before this week _ Beau Hossler. All of 17, he shot a 70 on Saturday and was four shots back, close enough for him to proclaim that he was changing his goal of being low amateur in the Open to winning the Open.
But he’s gone 15 majors now without winning a title, his longest drought since turning pro. He insisted earlier in the week that he remained on target to break the record, but like most of his recent proclamations, his words rang hollow.
For two days he looked like the player he once was, methodically making his way around Olympic Club and hitting fairways and greens with amazing accuracy. His new swing and new life seemed to be finally coming together, and it seemed a given he would be in the hunt on Sunday.
A good final round might be enough to salvage some of his confidence. But it probably won’t be enough now to win the U.S. Open.
Woods is still a baffling work in progress, his game a puzzle even to himself.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg