All it took was one glimpse of The Olympic Club for this longtime observer of golf _ especially when it comes to Woods _ to reach this conclusion. The tight turns in the canted fairways, putting a premium on accuracy instead of sheer length. The thick, mangled rough around so many collars of the firm, small greens.
He figured if Woods played anywhere near the level when he won the Memorial two weeks earlier, the tournament was over.
And if Woods was anywhere near the lead after the first couple of rounds at Olympic, forget it.
This was two days before the tournament.
Considering the source and his keen insight over the years, it was enough to get one’s attention. It also raised a question. What if Woods played well and didn’t win?
This was met with a long stare, but no answer.
A week later, it remains a mystery.
Woods loves the toughest tests, and nothing stacks up to a U.S. Open unless nasty weather is involved. And yet he closed with rounds of 75-73 at Olympic, one shy of his worst weekend at a U.S. Open. Woods had a 73-76 at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, although there were some notable differences.
Only 12 of the 72 players who made the cut at Olympic had a higher score than Woods on the weekend.
Shinnecock was brutal enough to produce 31 rounds in the 80s on the weekend, including 28 on the final day. No one who made the cut at Olympic shot in the 80s, and more than one major champion suggested that Saturday was the easiest the course played all week.
And the biggest difference? Woods was not tied for the lead going into the weekend at Shinnecock.
So what happened?
How did he go from near the lead to a share of the lead to a tie for 21st?
Woods attributed his 75 in the third round to being fooled by the speed of the greens, to being “just a touch off” at a major that exaggerates mistakes and to being caught between clubs on so many of his shots into the greens.