ARDMORE, Pa. -- Another major championship, another frustrating disappointment for Tiger Woods, not to mention his worst 72-hole score in relation to par in a major since he turned professional in 1996.
With a round of 4-over-par 74, Woods came in with a 13-over 293 total, a shot higher than his previous worst week, a 12-over at the 2003 PGA Championship. The No. 1-ranked player in the world never broke par at the U.S. Open, with four rounds in the 70s. He was 14-over in the 1996 Open but was still an amateur at the time.
Woods, who has not won a major since the 2008 Open in San Diego, had little doubt as to why he played so poorly this week on a course many thought was ideally suited for his game. It was all about the putting, he grumped afterward.
“I struggled with the speed all week,” Woods said. “These greens are grainy. It’s one of the older bent grasses, creeping bent. I struggled with the speed right around the hole. Putts were breaking a lot more. I gave it a little more break, and then it would hang. That’s kind of the way it was this week.”
Woods also said his iron play “wasn’t as sharp as I’d like. I hit the correct distance most of the time, but they weren’t in the correct areas that I’d like to have. I was trying to hit the ball in certain spots, give myself uphill looks on some other putts, but I didn’t quite do that. … I did a lot of things right. Unfortunately, I did a few things wrong as well.”
Michael Kim won the coveted low amateur honors by five shots, a day after he was only two shots off the lead and threatening to become the first amateur to win the Open since Johnny Goodman in 1933. After a run of four birdies in six holes to start his back nine, he played his last three in 4-over but was only five shots off the lead after 54 holes. He came back Sunday and posted a 76 for a total of 10-over 290.
Winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2013 as the collegiate player of the year from California-Berkeley, Kim credited some of his success this week to his caddie, LaRue Temple, a regular at Merion the past 16 years. On Monday, he was at the course when Merion’s caddie master asked him if he wanted to take a talented player’s bag.
“Kim needed a caddie, and they saw me in the parking lot,” Temple told reporters afterward. “They told me he’s a great golfer and plays for the Cal team and they won a lot. I just said ‘cool.’ ”
Still got it
Steve Stricker, now 46, has become mostly a part-timer on the PGA Tour. Despite not playing for more than a month, he was only a shot off the lead after 54 holes and very much in contention for the first major title of his career. On Sunday, he carded a 76 marred by a triple bogey at the 525-yard second hole when he hit two shots out of bounds. He finished with a 6-over 286, ending his hopes for becoming the oldest Open winner.
Stricker’s last event was The Players, where he tied for 37th place in only his sixth start of the season. He said he’s mostly focusing on the major championships and the big-money World Golf Championship events (he was second at the Cadillac Championship at Doral) mostly because he is tired of the constant travel. This week his wife, Nikki, his teenage daughter and a friend made it to Merion, making it an even better Father’s Day.
“They’re loving it,” Stricker said. “The girls are up to 11:30 every night. No curfew here. And frozen yogurt at night. They’re loving life.”
Stricker, one of the most mild-mannered players in professional golf, was asked about his role in a current TV commercial for a rental car company that refers to him as “a savage.”
“I hear that quite a bit out in the gallery now,” he said. “And I’m not a savage by any means. I guess that’s the funny part of the commercial. I felt like a dork making it, but it was all good, all in good fun.”
One to remember
Shawn Stefani’s second U.S. Open appearance wasn’t a total loss for the 31-year-old Texan and PGA Tour rookie.
He made the cut Saturday with opening rounds of 72 and 73 until disaster struck Saturday when he posted an ugly 85. Still, he will always look back at his tee shot at the 229-yard 17th hole on Sunday as one of the highlights of his career.
Using a 4-iron, Stefani pulled his ball slightly to the left, where it hit a grassy hillside, then bounced on the green and just kept rolling, rolling, rolling, about 50 feet before dying in the cup for a hole-in-one. After retrieving his ball out of the cup, Stefani walked over to the spot where his ball had first come down and kissed the grass.
“I didn’t know what to do but jump up and down for joy,” he said. “There’s some great fans up here and I k now they can be tough on you and they can love you forever. So I’m sure they appreciated me going to the ground and kissing it, because obviously the ground is where the kick started…Once it did kick, it kept rolling and I was like ‘well, this could be good.’ I was just super excited because it’s the first hole-in-one I’ve ever had in a tournament.”