By the time Woods teed off from his closing No. 9, Winged Foot had made its own arrangements. It would become the only major course to dismiss Woods on Friday twice. The first came amid that otherworldly span between 1997 and 2009 when Woods spent his first 48 professional majors missing only one cut — at Winged Foot in 2006, shortly after the death of his father, Earl.
On Friday came the second here, with a 77 born of five bogeys, two late birdies and two double bogeys, including a nightmare on No. 18 (his ninth hole), which he double-bogeyed for a second time when he twice sent approaches toward a green that sent them back down rudely.
“It feels like the way the golf course is changing, is turning, that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship,” Woods said after he settled at 10 over. “I didn’t get myself that opportunity.”
He added, “On this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that.” He hit 11 of 28.
As he has suffered back trouble that has often been severe on his way to age 44, he has suffered eight of his 11 major cuts in the past six years — after suffering three in his first 17. “Well,” he said, “probably I’m not going to be swinging a club for a little bit. Well, until Tuesday. And then after that, take a little break. And then refocus and get back after it. There’s still one more major to go, and then my title defense at Sherwood. We have a couple big, big things ahead of us.”
He remains, 17 months after the fact, the defending Masters champion.
Mickelson's early exit
Mickelson, 50, who recently won his debut on the PGA Tour Champion for golf seniors, added a 74 to his opening 79, missed the cut and said, “I find that I’ve been playing very well at home, and I get out here where the penalty for a mis-hit is severe, and I find myself getting a little tight and a little steer-y and playing some of my worst golf.”
Asked whether this might be his last try at the only major he has never won, he said, “I don’t know.”
TV viewers will get the routine weekend sight of Bryson DeChambeau, that ball-mauler and physics major (SMU) built like a linebacker (football) and known to golf geeks for his scientific approach.
After the first of his six tour wins at the John Deere in 2017, he said, “I try and make a very complex, variabilistic game and try to understand it, to understand every single variable in this whole game of golf.” And: “I think there is an easier way out there and people just haven’t figured it out.”
On Thursday, he had wedge problems that sent him to the driving range even after his 1-under-par 69, and on Friday, he had sorted out a lot on a harder day with his deeply impressive 68 that left him in second place. “So, for me, my 47-degree flies normally 145 [yards],” he explained. “Well, [Thursday] night I was hitting shots and it was flying 155. That’s what we were on the normalizing mode with the wind. And we just didn’t calibrate correctly.”
Patrick Reed, at 4 under the only player ahead of the 27-year-old DeChambeau, said they play different games and he considers among golf’s foremost charms its capacity to welcome varying styles.
“I played a practice round with him, and we were on No. 8, and there’s a tree on the right that I’m kind of cutting around,” Reed said. “I could cover it, but I’m not really trying to take that tree on. I’m going to play it left and kind of peel around it. Well, he wasn’t even looking at that tree. There’s a tree right of that that’s even closer to the tee box that he cleared by 20 feet. The height he’s hitting the ball is — I mean, it’s vertical. And really, around a place like this, you get downwind, that ball is just never going to come down. It’s just going to keep going.”
A Japan double?
There have been outstanding men’s major contenders from Japan, but the golf-fond country still awaits its first men’s major winner, and the world’s 18th-ranked player, Hideki Matsuyama, retains that promise as a longtime hopeful still aged only 28.
He has seven top-10 finishes in majors so far, and he went to the weekend at even par, four shots off the lead, making it conceivable that Japan could have two U.S. Open winners in the same month in New York, counting Naomi Osaka in tennis.
“The Winged Foot bore its teeth today,” Matsuyama said poetically, his round of 69 all the more impressive.