PEBBLE BEACH, Calif, — Dressing like the 43-year-old dad he is didn’t help Tiger Woods’ final-round Father’s Day performance at the 2019 U.S Open at Pebble Beach. Replete with long sleeves under a mock shirt under a V-neck vest, Woods fired a 69 to close out what has been a pretty disappointing week.
Much like the majority of his first return to Pebble Beach in seven years, Woods just wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be. Everything was just a little bit … off. Let’s dive into Woods’ final round in detail before looking at where he goes from here after a middling performance in the third major of 2019.
Front nine (2-over 37): This could have been worse, a lot worse. Woods started with four bogeys in his first six holes before finally hitting a couple of good approaches on the par-3 7th and par-4 8th. Those two shots led to straightforward birdies and a front nine that looked to be drifting toward 40 was saved from total disaster. Woods closed with a four on the 9th to stymie his slide down the leaderboard.
Back nine (4-under 32): This is where things turned around for Woods. Four birdies in the final six holes of the championship put him in a much better place on the leaderboard and sealed what would be his best 18-hole score of the week and best final round at the U.S. Open (69) in the last 10 years. Much like the first three days, the late flurry of birdies brought excitement but also thoughts of what could have been if not for the mistakes earlier in the round.
Shot of the day: Badly needing some juice, Woods drained this 42-foot birdie putt at 13 to kick-start the late scoring run.
Quote of the day: “I would have turned it around a little earlier than that [if I could have]. Again, got off to another crappy start and was able to fight it off. Turned back around and got it to under par for the week which is — normally it’s a good thing, but this week the guys are definitely taking to it.”
What’s next: Tiger likely won’t tee it up again until the Open Championship in four weeks. That will mark the end of his major championship season, one that has been the most successful he’s played in a decade. Still, there’s always concern about the body and likely always will be going forward. Woods looked stiff at times during this event and wore KT tape on his neck.
“When it’s cold like this everything is achy. It’s just part of the deal,” said Woods. “… The forces have to go somewhere. And if they’re not in the lower back, they’re in the neck, and if not, they’re in the mid-back and if not they go to the knee. You name it. Let me put it this way: I feel every shot I hit. I think that’s always going to be the place from here going forward.”
That’s not the primary reason for his struggles on the week, but it certainly wasn’t nothing, either. It’s been cold and damp all week, the kind of weather that gets in your bones and you can’t get it out. Tiger has been about the best of all time at shaking off all manner of peripheral distractions, weather and aches included, but this week at Pebble Beach was another in a long line of reminders that he won’t be able to do that forever.
At the place where he was the most immortal he’s ever been back in 2000, Tiger looked vulnerable, aging and weak at times in 2019. That’s what 19 years and four back surgeries does to you. Just like the rocks in the Pacific Ocean off the edge of the 18th fairway, worn down over time by the lapping of a billion waves, Woods is not quite what he used to be. And in this game, the chasm between “not quite” and “full throttle” can be 10 or 20 strokes wide like it was this week between Woods and the leaders.
So we may still get Tiger Woods vying for major championships. We just won’t get the version of the man who once took our breath away at this stunning place. Just like the evolution of an ocean and the land whose form it changes, this edition of Tiger might be less rock solid, but it also might be far more interesting.