| BOGEY-MAN: Tiger Woods after bogeying the 13th hole at the Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago during the third round of the US Open on Saturday. (Reuters)
The marshals held up ropes to hold the fans back and to form a corridor for Tiger Woods to pass through as he walked toward the clubhouse at Olympia Fields. He was not smiling.
It is Tigerís lot that he is a magnet for fans, and he has grown accustomed to the complications of being surrounded. It is also Tigerís lot that he is judged differently from other players.
So when he has a day like the one he had Saturday at the US Open, neither Tiger nor anyone else is used to it.
Tigerís world was spinning the wrong way, which is what happens when he shoots a 75 one day after he shoots a 65.
This is not Tiger, is it'
Heís poised to take over at the US Open, a position made for him, a situation where he thrives, and he takes off in the opposite direction.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, Woods took himself out of the running at the Open, which he owned last year at Bethpage Black and three years ago at Pebble Beach.
Just donít ask Woods if heís in a slump, as a radio reporter did Saturday. Woods doesnít enjoy the slump question. Letís just say he would rather stand over a 50-foot downhill putt with a 10-foot break over three humps.
Tiger said he really didnít know how to answer that question, then he answered it.
ďIíve won, what, three tournaments out of seven events and youíre trying to tell me Iím in a slump'Ē
If looks could have killed, Woods would be trying to post bail now.
Tiger joked about the slump issue a few days ago, before the Open began, but itís no joke that Woods isnít playing as well in the majors as he has before.
With 37 PGA Tour victories and three since he came back in February from knee surgery, Woods is hardly mired in a slump, but heís clearly in a slump of some kind.
Itís a ďmajorĒ slump. Or maybe itís something a little less severe. Maybe itís just a Tiger Pause.
The fact is that Woods has played the last four majors without winning ó his longest streak in nearly four years.
The bottom line is that Woods failed to take advantage of the punching bag that is Olympia Fields. He fell from three shots out of the lead to 11 back, and from a tie for fifth to a tie for 24th.
What will it take for Tiger to win' He said he needs a great round.
Like, say, a 54.
The last time he did not hold at least one major title was August 1999, just before he won the PGA Championship at Medinah. Woods hasnít gone more than three consecutive majors without winning one since then.
Counting his victory in the US Open last year, Woods won seven of the 11 majors played, from the 1999 PGA Championship through the 2002 Open.
In this era, thatís domination. Just not lately.
If you were going to find something that has been affecting Woods, itís probably one bad round. He has had just enough of them to cost him.
At last yearís British Open at Muirfield, he went 68-81-65 the last three rounds.
At the Masters, he closed with a 75, equalling his worst final round at a major as a professional. At the Memorial a couple of weeks ago, he had a 76 in the third round.
So add it up. He has his worst round as a pro at the British Open, then shoots 76 to open the Masters, his worst start there, and now he has his worst US Open round as a pro.
Pass the word. Tigerís human. He canít win every time, even if it seems as if he should.
It was sunny and a little breezy when Tiger started his Saturday round, but it got frosty fast. Somebody whistled during Tigerís downswing on his second shot at the first hole and he chopped the ball into the rough.
Instead of a birdie hole, it was a bogey hole. There were more, of course. His allergies were acting up, he never did properly judge the speed of the greens and he needed 35 putts ó 10 more than in his second round. He said it was a mental war out there.
No one is better at conducting a mental war than Woods, but it seems pretty clear that someone from the infantry, not the general, is going to win this week.
Itís entirely possible that Woods can make some kind of run Sunday and make it interesting, because thatís what he is all about. If he canít win it, heíll make somebody sweat. If he canít win it, heís not going to worry about what others say, either.
Many are surprised if he doesnít win every single major ó and that is Woodsí fault. He has conditioned everyone that this is the correct way to feel.
It has been a while since he has won a major, but if that timeline is indeed enough to be called a slump, Woods isnít buying it. He hasnít won a major in a year'
All that means, Tiger says, is that heís had a pretty darned good career.