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The Loop

The Loop

In four holes, Woods comes hurtling back to earth

August 11, 2011

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- The last four holes of this PGA Championship are diabolical, three with water at the green's edge.  They run: 260-yard par 3, 467-yard uphill par-4, 207-yard par 3, and 507-yard dogleg left par 4. "It's a hell of a test coming in," Tiger Woods said Wednesday. Then, in Thursday's first round, he confirmed the hell of it.

He shared the tournament lead when he stepped to the 15th tee. He'd made three birdies in his first five holes. But he dropped his tee shot on the 15th into a pond at the right. His lob wedge from the drop circle came up 20 feet short. Double-bogey.

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At the mountainous 16th, his tee shot dropped right -- into a bunker from which he half-chunked a shot up the hill into another bunker. From there, a mediocre sand shot. Bogey.

At the 17th, with the flagstick no more than 15 feet past a pond's stone wall, he played safely to the back of the green. From there, two putts. Par.

The 18th is against the law that precludes cruel and unusual punishment. Imagine coming there needing par to win on Sunday. It's an airport runway of a fairway, skinny at the point it turns left. Deep bunkers line the right side. A dream drive of, say, 300 yards onto a tiny window of fairway leaves you 207 yards to a flagstick that, on Sunday, likely will be far left, maybe four steps beyond that pond's stonewall front.

No dream drive for Woods on this day. A third tee shot on the four closing holes fell right. This one settled in a deep corner of a bunker from which Woods's only shot was sideways into the fairway. There he jerked a mid-iron into a greenside bunker far left. Another lame sand shot -- double-bogey six.

The day before, he had said, "But if you play those four holes per day -- those 16 holes -- even par, you'll be picking up a ton of shots on the guys." True, that. But what Woods probably didn't have in mind was that he would be one of "the guys" losing shots.

-- Dave Kindred