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DUBLIN, Ohio — It’s anybody’s guess who will win the Memorial Tournament today.
It could be Matt Kuchar, maybe Kevin Chappell, or Kyle Stanley, or any of 10 players in or within four shots of the lead.
But it won’t be Tiger Woods. You can take that to the bank, wager your first-born, or bet the ranch. Nope. Not Tiger.
The world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, the defending and five-time champion at Muirfield Village, and just about everybody’s pick to win it again this year, walked off the course Saturday with a 79.
It wasn’t his worst score ever. Woods had an 81 in the 2002 British Open at the “other” Muirfield, the ancient place over in Scotland.
That was one of those chamber-of-commerce days for Scottish golf — goose-bump cold, winds whipping, and rain slanting sideways.
It wasn’t that bad Saturday at the Memorial. It was warm, it was dry. But, oh, did the trees sway.
There were nonetheless six scores in the 60s and a total of 20 under par of 72. But Tiger staggered against the ropes and took the mandatory 8-count.
He is at 7-over 224 and trails Kuchar by 16 shots. Even Tiger in bright Sunday red can’t overcome that kind of deficit.
“It was a rough day,” he told a PGA Tour official. “The conditions were tough. When I missed, it cost me. I caught the wrong gusts at the wrong time, made a couple bad swings, and all in all, it just went the wrong way.”
We had to rely on his statement to the tour official because Woods declined to be interviewed and strode past 50-some media folks waiting for him.
On one hand, it was bad form. He’s the No. 1 player, and he was especially bad based on most standards, and certainly by his. On the other hand, Woods is asked to talk following rounds more than any golfer in the world and almost always complies. Nobody else who shot 79 drew flies from the press. So, we’ll give him a pass.
Plus, his score wasn’t even the worst in his threesome. Zach Johnson had an 81.
“It was hard, very hard,” Johnson said, talking and walking fast at the same time. “Don’t ask me about Tiger. I didn’t play well either.”
Because of expected storms that never materialized, the field was sent off two tees. Woods played the back nine first and turned in a career-worst score of 44 for nine holes. He had a single bogey, two doubles, and a triple. He almost hit for the cycle.
Tiger’s other playing partner, Jim Furyk, agreed that the 44 was shocking.
“It is,” he said. “A lot of it was being on the wrong side of the hole at the wrong time. Tiger didn’t hit that many bad shots, but he didn’t get away with anything.”
Furyk was happy to talk at length. He shot a 69. So what’s tough for one guy isn’t necessarily tough for another.
Woods had a double bogey at No. 12 when he landed against the back edge of a bunker — the only time all day he found sand — and had to come out almost sideways and ended up three-putting. He had another double at 15 when his second shot on the par-5 went wide, wide left, and it took three more shots to find the green.
His frustration boiled over at No. 18 when his approach spun back off the front of the green and down a hill. Then his chip did the same thing. His fourth shot stayed up, but above the flag, and he followed with a three-putt from seven slippery feet.
“That first chip was strange; it spun like a top,” Furyk said. “His putter was what really let him down on the first nine. But you know what? He had the 7 at No. 18 and the high score for the nine, then he rips it right down the middle at No. 1, birdies, and then does the same thing at No. 2. He was more in control.”
Tiger added another birdie at No. 5, but dropped a couple shots coming in and there it was, a 79, for all to see. But he wasn’t about to discuss it.
Furyk was sympathetic.
“Everything he does is under a microscope,” he said of Woods. “Nothing he would have told you was going to be anything you didn’t see with your own eyes.”
And it was indeed an unusual sight.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.