Par-5 problems plague Tiger Woods

Updated: August 14, 2010, 10:30 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Tiger Woods played his way out of contention at the PGA Championship on Saturday.

And he likely put himself in the position of having to get an at-large selection to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Woods shot even-par 72 at Whistling Straits after beginning the third round just five strokes out of the lead. When he finished, he was 10 shots behind Nick Watney.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Jerry Lai/US PresswireDespite showing flashes of his old form early Saturday, Tiger Woods remains an afterthought on the PGA Championship leaderboard at 10 shots back.

"Ironically enough today I hit the ball better than I did the first two days; I made nothing," Woods said. "You have to putt. I stuffed it in there early on the first few holes and made nothing, and also had a few other putts on the front nine. No matter how good you hit it, you've still got to make putts. I just didn't do that today."

Although Woods has shown improvement compared to his career-worst 72-hole performance a week ago at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, he is still struggling with several facets of his game.

And he has now gone 10 straight rounds without shooting in the 60s, the longest such stretch since a nine-round streak concluded with a missed cut at the 2006 U.S. Open. (In 1999, he went 15 straight rounds without shooting in the 60s.)

"It's been a lot," Woods said when asked to pinpoint his troubles. "I haven't driven the ball well, except for two weeks this year. And even then, I didn't putt well those weeks. So no matter how good I hit it, even though I knocked it on the green or three-putt and got around the green, I didn't get it up and down. It's just been one of those years."

For years, Woods has made his living on par-5 holes. In fact, if you want to put it in simple terms, his domination of those holes since his first full year on tour in 1997 is among the chief reasons why he has had so much success.

Before this year, Woods had never been worse than fifth on the PGA Tour in par-5 birdie conversion rate. That was in 2008, when he played in just six tournaments, won four of them, and was 50 percent on the par-5s.

Since 1997, Woods has ranked first in that category eight times. For his career, he has averaged a better than 51 percent conversion rate on those holes.

But this year, coming into the PGA, he was at just 43.18 percent and 54th on tour.

The trend has continued at Whistling Straits where Woods has been unable to take advantage of the par-5s. He is 1 over par for the week. He's made just two birdies on par-5s and has three bogeys.

"I haven't played them well all week," he said. "You've got to make birdies on the par-5s and I haven't done that."

Woods' bid to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team on points will largely depend on others.

He is 10th in the standings and the top eight following the final round of the PGA will automatically qualify for the team. Anthony Kim, who is sixth, and Lucas Glover, who is eighth, both missed the cut. But No. 7 Matt Kuchar and No. 9 Dustin Johnson are both in the top 15 and ahead of Woods in the tournament. Points are based on money earnings.

Woods would then need to count on a captain's pick from Corey Pavin, who will select the last four members of the team on Sept. 7.

If, as is likely, Woods fails to win Sunday, he will have gone 10 majors championships without a victory. He has stalled on 14 since capturing the 2008 U.S. Open. That streak would match the longest of his career. He went 10 majors without a victory between his 2002 U.S. Open title and 2005 Masters win. And he also had 10 majors without a victory from the 1997 Masters to the 1999 PGA.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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