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What if: Tiger Woods' second-place finish leaves many questions


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What if: Tiger Woods' second-place finish leaves many questions

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As Tiger Woods sat in the scorers room at Bellerive Country Club, forced to look once again at the ugliest 64 hed ever shot in his life, he sighed and rolled his eyes. A few hundred yards away, Brooks Koepka was in the process of finishing off a relentless, robotic round to win the 2018 PGA Championship. Koepka had done something that no one from Woods era had done: stared Tiger in the eye and flexed. In the end, Woods finished two strokes behind Koepka in solo second place. Its his best performance in a major in nearly 10 years, since another solo second finish at the 2009 PGA Championship. That one probably hurt more, since Woods had the lead and lost it to Y.E. Yang, but this ones going to burn for a long time because Woods left well more than two strokes out there on the course. Lets permit the great golf writer Dan Jenkins to set the stage: Every round, every tournament has a range of what-ifs, but lets dig into this years model: What if Woods had converted that eagle putt at 17 on Saturday? Woods was starting to make a run on Saturday afternoon, and his second shot on the par-5 17th, the easiest hole on the course, ended up settling 19 feet from the hole. Thats 19 feet for an eagle that would have pulled him to within three strokes of Koepka. But Woods inexplicably three-jacked from there, walking off the green with a par rather than a red number. That deep into a tournament, those are the holes that you start to think could come back and hurt. What if Woods had knocked down a couple birdies during his long dry streak? From the middle of the round on Saturday through the first hole on Sunday, Woods had nine NINE birdie chances that he failed to convert. On a weekend when everybody except Rickie Fowler was throwing dart after dart and birdieing every hole in sight, scoring par meant you were virtually moving backwards. What if Woods driver hadnt misfired early on Sunday? Look, its tough to nitpick a front nine where Woods carded four birdies against one bogey. But he missed his first seven fairways, and was scrambling from various depths of rough on every non-par-3 hole. What if hed been able to conserve a little mental and physical energy, what if hed given himself the opportunity to be creative without having to throw up SportsCenter highlights? And as wed soon see, Woods struggles off the tee didnt stop after hed made the turn. What if the putt at 11 had rotated once more? This one was just brutal: Its almost better that Koepka won by two strokes. If this had been the deciding factor, Woods would have every right to trash his rental house Sunday night. Its like the reverse of the famed Augusta chip from 2005; the ball hesitated and didnt go in. What if the putt at 14 had circled into the cup? Similar to 11, this was a putt you were sure was going in until it didnt, a putt that went a full 270 degrees around the cup before deciding, nah. This came at the worst possible time, as Koepka and Adam Scott were starting to pull away behind Woods, and a birdie here would have kept pace. And, if you feel like a real kick to the gut, think of this: between this and 11, Woods carded two strokes that traveled a total of two inches. It was a rough afternoon for what-ifs. (Getty) What if Woods hadnt almost put his tee shot into the creek at 17? This was the backbreaker. With just two holes left to make up ground, Woods needed to go no worse than two-under on the final two holes to give himself a shot. But instead, he started 17 by skulling one of his worst shots of the tournament, one that virtually landed in a creek that ran alongside the right side of the hole. It cost Woods at least one stroke in the recovery, and the deflation of the gallery at that moment couldve knocked the Goodyear blimp off course. What if Koepka had blinked? This, above all, is the key. Woods never ran down anyone on a Sunday in his prime to win a major, largely because he didnt have to hed already broken them Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But Koepka had just graduated from high school back when Woods won his last major. Koepkas not intimidated by the best in his era; hes certainly not going to get intimidated by someone he only knows from video games and remember-when clips. For all of Woods missed opportunities, the fundamental truth is this: Koepka didnt give him a real chance. And thats the key to Woods future in majors if hes going to win, hes going to have to outwork, outhustle and outplay guys that are two decades younger than him and thats going to mean converting many more of those what ifs into what happened.


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Location: New Jersey

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Channel: 258


Added On: August 13, 2018, 10:30 am EDT


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