ST . LOUIS — If you don’t think Tiger Woods will win another major championship you’re either:
A. Tiger hater.
B. In a coma.
D. All of the above.
Based on what Woods delivered in Sunday’s PGA Championship final round at Bellerive — a scintillating, riveting performance dripping with guile — it’s difficult to imagine that he won’t add to his 14 career major championships before long.
A month removed from his sixth-place finish in the British Open at Carnoustie, where he led with eight holes to play, Woods on Sunday posted the low round of the day with a 6-under-par 64 and finished runner-up to winner Brooks Koepka.
But that doesn’t tell a fraction of the full story.
The heart of the story on Sunday, amid the cauldron of final-round pressure and the 90-degree heat, was Woods’ heart. He struggled with his swing for most of the round and yet still had himself one shot out of the lead with three holes to play. He did not hit a fairway off the tee until the 10th hole and yet he was somehow 3-under par in that span.
Whether you like him or not, you simply cannot deny that there isn’t a player alive today who grinds harder than Woods, who does not give up under any circumstance.
Did he commit a few fatal flaws that cost him the chance to win his 15th major and first since 2008?
Woods failed to hit the fairway on the par-4 14th hole despite hitting iron off the tee. His ball ended up in a gnarly tuft of rough and he was unable to advance the ball to the green and save par.
A moment before, he’d drained a birdie putt on No. 13 and raised his arm and the putter for the exclamation point.
The galleries, which packed the course like zero players said they’ve ever seen, were delirious. The fans, sensing that they were about to witness a part of history, were willing him on, chanting, “Let’s go Tiger,’’ as if they were at a playoff baseball game rooting their team on to the World Series.
“The energy was incredible,’’ Woods said.
“You could hear the roars from different parts of the golf course,’’ Justin Thomas said. “It’s pretty apparent what a Tiger roar is versus anybody else. So I knew he was making noise.’’
The birdie on 13 got Woods to within a shot of Koepka, who was playing behind him, and it felt like Woods was going to win.
Then came the crushing bogey on 14.
But on 15, Woods came within a foot of jarring his approach shot from the fairway for eagle, settling for as definitive a bounce-back birdie as you’ll ever see. The deficit was back to one shot.
Then came the par-5 17th, where Woods’ driving troubles would doom him for the last time. He blocked his drive into high rough around a creek and had to chop it out to the fairway. On a par-5 Woods positively had to birdie, he settled for par and his chances were over.
Koepka, the reigning two-time U.S. Open champion, was winning his third major championship in the past seven.
“I played hard,’’ Woods said. “It was a bit of a struggle with my game. I was hanging in there, grinding it out and trying to make as many birdies as possible. I made a little bit of a run, but I’m coming up a couple shots short.’’
His troubles off the tee?
“I had a hard time with my warm-up,’’ he said. “I was hitting it left and right and I had to pick a side. I found a little something on the back nine and it kind of got me through.’’
Not all the way through, though.
“I was pretty ticked at the British Open,’’ Woods said. “I had the lead there. This one I never quite got to the lead. I was always trailing. It was a golf course in which I couldn’t sit still and make pars and be OK with it. I had to keep making birdies.
“I was in contention in the last two major championships, and I would never have foreseen that a year ago. I’m so thankful to be here.’’
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