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Tiger’s major slide reaches 16 after U.S. Open disaster

Tiger Woods’ last major championship victory came in 2008, and many are wondering if the greatest player of this generation will ever win another.

Tiger Woods’ last major championship victory came in 2008, and many are wondering if the greatest player of this generation will ever win another.

ARDMORE, Pa. — The final line in Tiger Woods’ Merion nightmare read as follows: 20 bogeys, one triple bogey, 10 birdies.

The 13-over par Woods registered stands as his worst performance in a major, as he finished yesterday with a final-round 4-over 74. His previous worst came seven years ago at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, where he carded a 12-over.

While Tiger has won 14 majors, his last one came in the 2008 U.S. Open. So it’s been a while for the world’s No. 1 player.

“There’s obviously a lesson to be learned in every tournament whether you win or lose,” Woods said following his round Sunday.

“I’ll look back at the things I did right and the things I did wrong.”

In the wrong column, he’ll start with his putter, and go from there. He struck 33 putts during Saturday’s round of 76 which doesn’t lead to winning golf. Basically, the putter was balky all week.

“I struggled with the speed all week,” he said. “These greens are grainy. It’s one of the older bent grasses, creeping bent. So it’s a little bit grainy. I struggled with the speed, especially right around the hole, putts were breaking a lot more. And if I gave it a little more break, putts would hang. That’s kind of the way it was this week.”

That’s kind of the way it’s been for him in the majors, as the total is now up to 16 since his last win.

Occasionally on Sunday, when an out-of-contention Woods still managed to attract an enormous gallery, the wind at Merion seemed to howl his name.

“Tiger!” the constant cry came from wherever he popped into view. “Tiger! . . . Tiger!”

Nothing could diminish the fans’ hunger for him to succeed, a hunger that on this day, this week, went unsated.

“I’m sorry that the golf wasn’t what I like to have it be,” Woods said afterward.

He was 9 back when his day began at 12:02 p.m., 14 behind when it ended almost exactly four hours later, and still they stood 10 to 15 deep along the fairways. A final-round 74 capped his worst U.S. Open ever, and still they trudged up and down hills to be near him. His steely focus barely allowed him to acknowledge their presence, and still they shouted their encouragement.

“Tiger, you can do this!” one fan yelled after Woods sank a 15-footer for an opening-hole birdie.

“Tiger, have some fun today!” screamed another.

The fun, for Woods anyway, ended quickly.

Any thoughts of a Johnny Miller comeback on the final day of this 2013 U.S. Open disappeared when he — and shortly afterward his drive — crossed Ardmore Avenue.

His tee shot on the par-5 second hole went out-of-bounds, soaring across the road that bisects the course and was clogged with fans. His second effort barely stayed safe, settling in the deep rough beside a pine tree. He reached the green in 5 and three-putted for a triple-bogey eight that ruined his day but not his gallery’s.

Some of the spectators’ interest could be attributed to Woods’ status as perhaps the most recognizable face in sports. But there was more at work at Merion.

Eventually, as Woods’ total rose to its final resting place of plus-13, there was some minor erosion in that support.

As he walked up the seventh fairway, eyes straight ahead as always, someone noted that “he looks like a robot.”

“Come on, Phil!” another fan shouted to widespread laughter.

Then, while Woods was standing over his second shot in the eighth fairway, the wisecracks came from both sides, though typically the golfer in his familiar Sunday color scheme of red and black gave no indication he had heard anything.

A fan in the rough yelled what was true not just of Woods but of every golfer in this battered Open field:

“The course beat you, Tiger!”