Want to beat Tiger? Play him at Hazeltine.
Hazeltine National Golf Club has now been the site of two memorable defeats for Tiger Woods in major championships. Yesterday’s come-from-behind win by Y.E. Yang was notable because it was the first time Woods had ever coughed up a 54-hole lead in a major (going 14-for-14 before hand), and only the second time in his entire professional career that he had done so. It’s also notable because Yang is one of the few folks who have been able to take down Tiger when paired with him. Yang played a tremendous round of golf on Sunday, refusing to fold on numerous occasions and then delivering two masterful shots (the chip-in for eagle on 14, and the hybrid second-shot on 18) to take control of the tournament.
But the storyline, as always, is about Tiger. Pick your reasons for Tiger’s struggles on the weekend — did he play too conservatively, was he trying to get too cute with his approach shots, or was it just a matter of a bad day with the flat stick — but this is now the second straight major at which Tiger hasn’t delivered in the face of strong play by an unheralded player.
What’s that, you say? Tiger didn’t blink in 2002 — he finished with four straight birdies and made Rich Beem sweat out the roars in front of him. And that has indeed become the narrative we remember from that August day. But everyone forgets what happened between Beem’s memorable eagle on 11 and Tiger’s four-birdie close. Playing one group ahead of Beem, Tiger followed the posting of Beem’s eagle with two really sloppy holes of golf. First, Tiger three-putted the 13th from 12 feet. Then, Tiger made a mess of the short 14th, lacing a 4-iron wide right into the rough, and after a 9-iron left him just short of the green, he couldn’t get up-and-down to save par. The two bogeys by Woods left Beem with a six-shot lead. Tiger’s four birdie run to close the round was just not enough.
In 2016, it might not be such a bad thing for the Euros to have to face Tiger at Hazeltine after all.