LITTLE ROCK — Hillary Clinton conceded the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama 10 days before Tiger Woods won his last major.
If Woods comes up short this week in the PGA championship at Kiawah Island, Obama will be into his second term or Mitt Romney will be seven weeks deep in his first term before the 2013 Masters and Woods’ next opportunity to win No. 15. Beginning in 1999, he won 13 of 36 majors.
Who knew that Padraig Harrington’s victory in the 2008 PGA Championship would begin a string of 16 different winners of major tournaments. No. 17 will probably occur this week. If it does, the winner is likely to be sitting in the clubhouse, watching on TV, as the 54-hole leader fails to par some of the closing holes.
In recent majors and at the regular PGA Tour stops, that seems to be the down-pat formula to victory.
Last week, at the WGC-Bridgestone, Jim Furyk’s collapse was worse than most. With a 7-iron second to the par-four last, he made six, twice mishitting chip shots.
A week earlier, at the Canadian Open, third-round leader Robert Garrigus missed six putts inside eight feet on Sunday, including a short one for par on No. 16. In the lead with four holes to play, William McGirt three-putted No. 15 and bogeyed No. 18.
Winner, Scott Piercy.
At the British Open, Adam Scott couldn’t par any of the last four holes and lost by a stroke to Ernie Els. Before that, Webb Simpson — the U.S. Open champion because of Furyk’s late foul-up in June — made three straight bogeys on the final nine holes and lost his lead in the Greenbrier Classic.
Winner, Ted Potter Jr.
The week before, Charley Hoffman blew a two-shot lead on the final two holes of the Travelers Championship. Winner, Mark Leishman.
Sense a pattern? Leader fades on the final day; relatively unknown wins.
Woods’ take: “Golf is getting deep. The margin is getting smaller.” Another perspective is that when a player knows a victory is only a par or two away, exposed nerves infect the player’s routine.
On Pete Dye’s golf course, where practice swings are allowed in the sand and there are 10 holes along the Atlantic Ocean — more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere — the wind comes from all directions. Wind causes pro golfers more consternation than 500-yard par fours, super-fast greens, or anything else.
One description of the Ocean Course said a player can experience up to an eight-club difference from one day to the next. For those of us who have complained about hitting 5-iron instead of 7-iron on a 150-yard hole into the wind, such a stout breeze is incomprehensible.
“You have to think about what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it,” Woods said.
Nobody is better than Woods at mapping out a strategy. At the British, his plan was to hit less than driver, ostensibly to be short of many of the 200-plus bunkers. Another interpretation is a lack of confidence in his driver. On the final day, when he had to press to try and catch Adam Scott, he was right of right with the big stick.
On top of that, wedge in hand, his distance control was so poor that he often missed the pin by 30 feet or more. Last week, on a course where he had won seven times, he had a total of 62 putts on Thursday and Friday, barely hit half the fairways, and trailed by 13 strokes going into the weekend.
The only thing certain about Woods’ play this week is that he will par the final hole if he needs four to win the PGA Championship. Other than that, all bets are off.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.