124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Did that just happen?

August 16, 2009

CHASKA, Minn. -- A door flew open in the clubhouse here, and in strode the man himself. Tiger Woods had his agent, Mark Steinberg, in front of him, and his wife, Elin, holding their daugher, Sam, behind him.

As Woods passed by a cardboard recycling receptacle, he tapped it temporarily off balance -- as if wanting to knock it over completely, but knowing there was no point.

The most stunning conclusion to a major championship in recent memory had just transpired here at Hazeltine National, and Woods seemed already resigned to it. As hours give way to days and he starts to reflect on how he was outlasted by the unheralded Y.E. Yang, the world No. 1 might shake his head at how it all unfolded. But at least there, he won't be the only one.

How Woods had lost this major is simple: a Yang chip-in for eagle at 14. Yang's otherworldly 3-iron on 18. Woods' own miscues on 17 and 18.Â

But it's also complex: it points to a receding aura. It speaks to the rest of the game catching up to him. It drives home the point that's been made countless times before, that the guys who fancy themselves Woods' direct challengers are the ones who struggle against him most, while the ones with nothing to lose play without inhibition.

But that's just the start. There will be plenty of time to ponder the significance of what we saw today. Woods, for instance, will likely think about it all winter.

-- Sam Weinman