ARDMORE, Pa. Tiger Woods made birdie at the first hole, only to watch his day go racing downhill from there.
By the time it was over, Woods skidded to seven bogeys and a 6-over-par 76 Saturday, tumbling down the leaderboard and matching his worst round as a pro at the U.S. Open. That left him 10 strokes behind third-round leader Phil Mickelson, the only player under par at the short but devilishly tough Merion Golf Club.
Despite leading the PGA Tour in putting in recent weeks, Woods needed 36 putts on the severely undulating greens. He blamed his inability to gauge the speed of those baffling putting surfaces for his three days of uneven play.
"It's certainly frustrating because I was feeling like I was playing well this week and I just didn't make the putts I needed to make," he said afterward.
"The first two days, I had, like, three 3-putts and I was four shots off the lead, and I missed a boatload of putts within 10 feet. So I really wasn't that far off. If I clean up the round and don't 3-putt, I'm one shot back starting out today. ..." Woods added.
"Basically, I just didn't have the speed right this week and it certainly showed."
Woods' toughest stretch came at Nos. 3-6, where he made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch. He blamed the last of those for setting the negative tone that hung over his round like the storm clouds that rolled over Merion throughout Thursday's opening round. His troubles at No. 6 included a tee shot that finished up in another player's divot in the fairway, as well as a delicate greenside chip that rolled back and left him facing his next shot from farther back.
"I think the (bogey) 5 really turned my round around," Woods said. "I drove it right in the middle of the fairway and I end up in a ball mark from somebody else's ball mark, so it was kind of the way it went."
This U.S. Open marks exactly five years since Woods won his last major, at Torrey Pines, which he captured in a playoff against Rocco Mediate, despite hobbling around with ligament damage. His pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' career record of 18 majors remains stalled at 14.
Woods also shot a 76 in the final round at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, as well as two rounds of 76 at Winged Foot in 2006 when he missed the cut.
Woods' worst round ever at an Open was a 77 at Oakland Hills in 1996, when he was a 19-year-old amateur.