ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — A quick summary of Saturday's play in the third round of the British Open is as follows: Louie Oosthuizen maintained, Paul Casey charged and Tiger Woods remained invisible.
This is getting serious.
The man who lives for majors, who has won 14, is now dying in them. The engine who used to drive golf is having serious carburetor problems right now.
If we take him at his word, all can be fixed with a few more putts dropping into cups. That has been the theme, and continued to be after his second consecutive one-over-par round of 73 Saturday.
"I'm driving it great, and I was grinding out there today," Woods said. "I'm just not making putts."
We are starting to wonder if that is really Woods talking, or if he just sends a look-alike robot with a taped answer.
Of course, the issue — and concern — is not just of his doing, but ours too. We are spoiled.
We have come to assume that there will be a charge, that the chip shot will roll down the hill on the banked green on closing day of the Masters, stop at the cup with logo facing up — just long enough to present Nike with a million-dollar free ad — and drop in for the birdie that would be the deciding moment.
We take for granted one-hop chips into the cup at Torrey Pines, as well as impossible birdies from the rough on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open there, making us watch another day as he limped to a playoff victory. Even though he was close, Rocco Mediate never had a chance. We knew that. The world knew that.
Suddenly, they all seem to have a chance.
The big leaderboard is 12 deep here, and Woods never made an appearance Saturday. Where have you gone, Tiger Woods? A nation of guys in loud polyester pants turns its lonely eyes to you.
Yes, he had the knee injury that put him out after Torrey Pines in 2008. And yes, he had the "marital excursion," as the British call it. But it has been eight majors now without Woods hoisting the big trophy, and the image of invincibility is taking some hits.
Was the 2009 PGA Championship the first hint? Should our antennas have been up after Y.E. Yang's stoppage of Woods' 14 consecutive major victories when leading after 54 holes? Yipes! Y.E. Yang. That was, after all, pre-Cadillac-Gate. Should we have seen that as more than merely one of those things that is going to happen, even to a god of golf?
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