They’ll look at what happened to star-crossed Dustin Johnson, how he fell apart the first few holes, mentally as much as physically, and tossed the U.S. Open over the cliff into Carmel Bay with a final-round 82.
And certainly that was true.
But Johnson, whom one TV type referred to as “Dustin Hoffman,” is young — 26 today — and was inexperienced in the grinding pressure of major championship golf, even if this Open of 2010 was at Pebble Beach, where he had won the last two AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am events.
Tiger Woods had been there — been here, in 2000 — and done that, having won 14 majors and having won three U.S. Opens. And while his stumble Sunday in the final round wasn’t as dramatic as Johnson’s, it was more unexpected.
The sports world had been waiting for Woods to announce his return to the challenge and to the leaderboard in big-time golf. When he zoomed home with a 31 on the back nine of the third round Saturday — a 66 total and a 1-under 212, which lifted him into third place — it appeared he was the Tiger of old, Tiger of pre-scandal, pre-accident.
Sunday, however, that Tiger was blown away by the breeze off the Pacific. Woods bogeyed four of the first eight holes and before he was done — literally, since he was metaphorically finished right there — Tiger had a 4-over 75 and finished at 3-over 287.
That’s exactly what Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez shot in 2000 to finish tied for second, 15 shots back of Woods.
“I was disappointed in starting off so poorly again,” said Woods, who did manage to tie Phil Mickelson for fourth, “[Saturday] I got the ball below the hole. Today, I was above the hole. You can’t make putts here above the hole.
“But I feel like I can play again. Two majors this year, and I had a chance to win in both.”
A chance, but he tied for fourth in both the Masters and the U.S. Open.
“I had three mental errors. Take away those, and I feel I probably would have won,” Woods said.
Rationalization, perhaps, but golfers always rationalize when they don’t win. It’s a game of “could have” and “should have.” Also a game of playing the same course everyone else plays.
“I thought at the start of the day if I could have shot under par,” said Woods, who was 1-under after 54 holes, “I would win. But this course beats you into being aggressive.
“I feel like I put some pieces together. This week was a process.”
And a missed opportunity.