Tiger Woods fails to prosper as Brooks Koepka offers glimpse of future

This was not in the Tiger Woods script.

In fact it represented a scenario he would have detested; walking away from the 18th green in the final round of a major with the leading players still to take to the course.

That 72nd hole had significance for Woods but of nothing close to the kind he would prefer. He needed a birdie on the last to break par at Oak Hill for the first time in eight competitive rounds here. Woods would also have achieved what has become a recent rarity by scoring lower than 70 during one of the last two rounds of a major.

He failed to make that birdie. His level-par final round left him on four over and still chasing that 15th major which has been more than five years in the waiting. Twenty-two majors have now passed since Woods won the US Open in dramatic circumstances at Torrey Pines. Though he did not participate in four of them, this run shows no sign of coming to an end.

Woods is only 37 and has proved himself more than capable of playing the best golf in the world this year, in which he has won five tournaments. Still, there is a rising sense that maybe the golfing gods have determined Woods will not match the record major haul of Jack Nicklaus, which stands at 18.

"I put four good rounds last week [at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational], unfortunately it wasn't this week," Woods said. "I was close in two of the majors this year. I was right there and certainly had a chance to win the Masters and the British this year. The other two I just didn't hit it good enough. That's just the way it goes.

"Is it concerning? No. As I've said, I've been there in half of them. So that's about right. If you are going to be in there three-quarters or half of them with a chance to win on the back nine, you have just got to get it done.

"It's more frustrating not being in it. Having a chance on the back nine on Sunday, I can live with that. It's always frustrating going out there, and I'm three over today, got to 7 and I'm grinding my tail off coming in just to shoot even par for the day. And I'm nowhere in it. That's tough. I'd much rather have it like at Augusta or at the British when I have a chance."

The most ominous aspect of his day's work had appeared at the 13th, where he winced in pain after hitting yet another wayward drive. Woods has struggled with a wrist injury since competing at the Players Championship at the beginning of May and, on this occasion, seemed to be bothered by his lower back. "It has been tight all day," he said. "It's just one of those things."

Woods had one of the game's brightest young talents, Brooks Koepka, for Sunday company. The 23-year-old has proved something of a revelation since choosing Europe as the launchpad for his professional career; Koepka has briskly earned a part exemption for the main tour there after success on its Challenge equivalent.

Koepka struggled in Rochester, closing with a 77 for 11 over in total, but had the consolation of 18 holes in the company of his hero. "He is the reason I'm playing," said Koepka of Woods. "It was a bunch of fun to play with him. Nice guy, hell ofa player."

Woods was not alone in falling short of expectation. Phil Mickelson finished at plus 12. Justin Rose closed with a 72 and at three over.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ewan Murray at Oak Hill, for The Guardian on Sunday 11th August 2013 23.29 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Keith Allison