Tiger Woods was among seven former U.S. Open champions to miss the cut on Friday at the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club’s West Course. Woods followed Thursday’s milquetoast 73 with a ghastly 77, for cumulative 10-over-par score, four shots over the cut line and 14 back of leader Patrick Reed. It’s the third missed cut in the last four U.S. Opens for the 44-year-old Woods, who seemed every bit his age, and also his third missed cut in his last five major starts.
Winged Foot in particular has been a chamber of horrors for Woods. After his 77 today, his worst round yet at the West course, he is now 27 over for his last five major championship rounds here. Winged Foot also ended his 39 consecutive major championship made cut streak back in 2006.
“It was frustrating that I didn't drive the ball as well as I needed to,” Woods lamented. “I finally putted well. But on this golf course it's imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that.”
Woods hit just 11 of 28 fairways and only 18 of 36 greens over the two rounds, but his week was worse than the scorecard indicates.
Starting on the back, Woods played the stretch of 14-18 5 over par, including double bogeys at the 498-yard 16th and the 18th -- the latter for the second day in a row. Friday's misadventure at the 18th looked almost identical to the catastrophe the day earlier. Once again, Woods hit a good tee shot but missed the fairway. Whereas Thursday’s trouble started in the left rough, this time Woods hit a 3-wood 319 yards off the tee, through the fairway and into a bunker. His solidly struck approach from the sand tried gallantly to climb the devilish false front but failed before retreating back down the swale to almost the exact same place where Woods' second came to rest the day earlier.
They say insanity is repeating the same mistake and expecting a different result. Woods fluffed the pitch for a second consecutive round. It rolled right back to his feet.
Suddenly Woods was 8 over, definitely outside what everyone predicted as the cut line, and he needed to make something happen fast. Bogeys at 2, 3, 5 and 6 sent him plummeting further and further into the nether-reaches of the leader board.
Woods mustered two late birdies at seven and nine, but it was akin to garbage time of a lopsided contest.
Speaking of Mickelson, his plane never left the hangar. His opening 79 doomed him to miss the weekend even before he teed off Friday, and his clumsy, plodding 74 on Friday wasn’t much better. Winged Foot West made Mickelson look every one of his 50 years. This tournament marks only the second time that both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have missed the cut in the same major. The last time was the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Although next year’s U.S. Open is at Torrey Pines, a home game for Mickelson, he has previously promised not to take a special exemption in order to play. Some ponder whether this might be Mickelson’s last appearance in a U.S. Open, but even if he fails to qualify my guess is that at some point he’ll realize the fans will want to give him a proper goodbye. Where better to bow out than his beloved Torrey, with the adulation of tens of thousands roaring jubilantly for him one last time?
Besides, the silence of the 2020 Open should not be way the world of golf and the National Championship say goodbye to one of their immortals.
Several other former U.S. Open champions were treated just as cruelly. The cut line claimed 2014 champion Martin Kaymer (+7), defending champion Gary Woodland and 2013 champion Justin Rose (+8), 2015 champion Jordan Spieth (+14) and 2010 champion Graeme McDowell (+16).
Other major champions feeling the ax include newly minted PGA Champion Collin Morikawa, Keegan Bradley, Jimmy Walker, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.
Still with the cut at 6 over, what’s left of the field are all within ten shots of the lead.
“It feels like the way the golf course is changing that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship,” Woods noted, and he’s right.
Winged Foot has awakened, and it is roaring, and that means the winner will be the player that percolates down the leader board the least, not the player who makes the most birdies. Right now, playing Winged Foot is like driving on black ice.
“The is the major venue every one truly loves coming to, no matter how hard it is,” said 2006 U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, who picked up the trophy and gold medal that Phil Mickelson dropped on the ground the last time the Open was held in Winged Foot.
“I remember Judy Rankin telling me before the final round, ‘Just hang on as long as you can, people are going to come back. Everyone is going to make bogeys at a U.S. Open there, you’ll see,’ and she was right. You have to remember Winged Foot is gonna take more from you than you take from it…patience above all.”