Tiger Woods started the final round of the 2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational looking for some momentum going into next week's PGA Championship at Bellerive. He grabbed it momentarily with a 1-under 34 on the front side of the course at Firestone Country Club, but then came the most eventful back nine of his year -- and maybe his career.
It started with a bogey at the 10th and got crazier from there. Woods made a birdie at the 11th, two more bogeys, a double, a birdie, another double, his first par on the 17th and then finished the closing hole with a birdie.
It all added up to an insane 4-over 39 as Woods shot his second consecutive 3-over 73 overall and finished the tournament at even par and outside the top 30. The finish is one of the worst in his stellar career at this tournament. Woods has finished 15 Bridgestone Invitationals, and this is just the third time he hasn't placed in the top eight.
So what happened to Big Cat after a solid start over the first two rounds in which he was 6 under and just outside of striking distance of the top of the leaderboard? Well, he fell off the planet with his approach shots. After gaining strokes on the field in his approaches on Thursday and Friday, Woods finished lost nearly three full strokes to the field in that category on Saturday and Sunday with the bulk of the damage coming over the final 18 holes.
This was Tiger's swan song at Akron, a place he has thoroughly dominated throughout the years to the tune of eight victories. This tournament heads to Memphis in 2019, and Woods was unable to bookend what is still his last win (in 2013) with another one five years later.
Now Woods heads to the final major of the year and his last shot at a 15th title until next April's Masters with one of his most bizarre performances of the year to call on. I didn't think Bellerive would fit Woods' game all that well, and his play on the weekend did not engender any confidence in the contrary.
One part of his game that will be an interesting sub-storyline over the next month or so is fatigue. Tiger is playing a lot; presumably four times in five weeks, which is a heavy schedule for anyone, much less somebody who's 42 years old coming off of four back surgeries. The way he hit the ball on the weekend is concerning, even though some of it can probably be written off to Woods feeling the need to go for broke from deep down the leaderboard.
Woods' statistics so far this season have been tremendous, but he has yet to put together a consistent, four-round showing at any of the events he's played. Maybe that comes next week at the 100th PGA Championship, but following a 6-over weekend finish at Firestone, contention in St. Louis would certainly be a surprise.