Now, for a little bit of variety. You said you wanted pictures/more from Chambers Bay. I was back inside the ropes today walking with Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler (who was dressed like a Detroit Lion) and Louis Oosthuizen. It was a frustration-filled day for the American stars now star-crossed. And for Woods, it felt like the end of an era...
[caption id="attachment_30894" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Tiger Woods on No. 3 at Chambers Bay Friday, on his way out of the 115th U.S. Open with a two-round score of +16 (Gregg Bell/Staff Writer).[/caption]
A 30-something man greeted this most popular – and ultimately star-crossed -- group of the 115th U.S. Open on its long walk between holes three and four.
That sun-baked guy put it best.
“Changing of the guard!” he yelled at Tiger Woods.
Thing is, the “new” guard in the group, the dude supposedly replacing the 39-year-old Woods as perennial major winner – 26-year-old fashion plate Rickie Fowler – wasn’t nearly the man for the job. Not on these two days when Chambers Bay humbled the eighth-ranked golfer in the sport and the world’s now-so-long-ago No. 1.
Woods was six more over par with a 76 on Friday. That left him with a two-round total of plus-16. The winner of 14 majors left the course eschewing the standard players’ van for a private, white Lexus coupe, alone in his thoughts. And his failure.
Tiger Woods, tied for 154th in a field of 156.
“At least he can fly home (to Florida) tonight in his own plane,” one fan sitting in the grandstand off the ninth green quipped.
[caption id="attachment_30895" align="alignright" width="480"] Friday was a long, frustrating hack for Tiger Woods (left) and Rickie Fowler at Chambers Bay. Both missed the cut at the 115th U.S. Open with a combined two-round score of 30 over par (Gregg Bell/Staff Writer).[/caption]
Fowler, second in this championship and the British Open last year, was four over in his checkered, Detroit Lions-blue ensemble. His two-day total: +14. So much for the striker some oddsmakers had as the fourth favorite coming in here, at odds of 18-1.
Contenders? Woods and Fowler needed a ferry ticket to just see the cut line. So two of the most followed and charismatic golfers in the world are going home with two rounds to still to play in the U.S. Open.
“I made nothing today,” Woods said Friday.
Or was it Thursday?
He missed just his fifth cut in 68 career majors. The most common call he heard, by far, was “Hang in there, Tiger!”
Hanging in was about all he did do.
Fowler is gone, too -- despite the shrill cries of “Riiiiiickeeeeee!!!” and “We love you, Ricky!” from young women across Chambers Bay for the dashing winner of The Players Championship last month. Those women were the only ones who didn’t seem to notice as their man scattered drives left, right, short and deep, mostly where he didn’t want them.
Those giddy gals definitely didn’t see Fowler steal away at his turn between No. 18 and teeing off on 1. He peeled off ostensibly to use the restroom in the Chambers caddie shack while spotting girlfriend Alexis Randock in her black leather jacket and dark sunglasses. Grabbing her attention with a “Pssst!” Fowler stole a quick kiss and hug.
But even that didn’t help. He had three of his six bogies and finished three over for his final nine holes.
When a guy along the 18th fairway yelled at Fowler “Rickie, baby blue is out of style!” he could have been talking about his game at Chambers Bay, too.
The overlooked third member of this Group of Dead was South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen. He had to shoot what into the late afternoon was the day’s best score of 66, one off the course record set Thursday by Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, just to get to plus-3 for the tournament. Oosthuizen could have set the course record with perhaps a 63 if he hadn’t kept finding Chambers’ many sand traps wide of freeway-wide fairways.
These three produced more plusses than a third-grade math teacher.
Walking the final 13 holes with this group felt like an up-close viewing of an end of an era, plus the pausing of another.
This is Woods' 14th missed cut since turning pro in 1996 -- and the fourth in his last 11 starts. Friday, he kept putting himself in position for birdies and eagles with towering drives and mostly precise second shots. And then he kept pushing putts way past and wide of a cup that appeared for him to be a pinhead.
“I didn't make any putts the first two days; I hit it better today,” Woods said. “Hitting some spots where I could hit some putts; I made nothing.”
His second round began and ended the same way: fittingly. Starting on the back nine in the supposedly favorable morning he sent his tee shot far wide of the 10th green into the brown weeds. Then, while approaching his ball, he slipped on the hay onto his rear end, barely catching himself with his hands.
That hole ended with a bogey.
His final hole was at No. 9, five, frustrating hours later. His tee shot on the downhill par 3 landed on the wicked, topsy-turvy green about 75 feet in front of the hole. That became a three-putt adventure for a bogey; he had eight of those Friday. That matched his eight bogeys from Thursday. Woods made just three birdies in two days, two on Friday: on No. 1 the USGA set up Friday as a par 5, and on 12.
Woods constantly sighed, slumped his running back-like shoulders and blew air through his cheeks in exasperation with Chambers Bay’s greens that ruined him.
He was wearing a white golf shirt with a red, horizontal stripe on the front and red, vertical stripe on the back – “Nice shirt,” were some calls to Woods on that long walk to the fourth tee. His game, along with Fowler’s, could have used the Red Cross.
They kept taking turns matching two putts. On 18, to end his front nine, Woods had a 10-foot putt for par. He pushed it wide by two feet for a bogey. He sighed and slumped his shoulders again, seemingly resigned to his fate.
More people yelled “Hang in there, Tiger!” at that.
The oddest call from the gallery came during Woods’ walk down the fairway on No. 2.
“Tiger for president!” a young guy yelled.
Not on this day. Not in this tournament. Not in these last few years.
Friday was not only the end of a U.S. Open for Woods. It felt like the end of an era.