Tiger Woods walks to the green on the seventh hole during the final round of the Memorial golf tournament Sunday, June 3, 2018, in Dublin, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

The U.S. Open begins in 10 days at Shinnecock Hills, the majestic, 127-year-old golf club in Southampton on Long Island, a wee bit east of New York City.

And while it seems ridiculous to write this, could Tiger Woods win his first major championship in 10 years at the close of that weekend?

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Tiger Woods reads the green on the seventh hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club during the final round of the Memorial Tournament on Sunday in Dublin, Ohio. Woods was in the mix over the weekend at the PGA Tour event but wound up 23rd, six shots behind the trio who went to a playoff before Bryson DeChambeau won.

Woods very briefly owned the lead at this past weekend's Memorial Tournament, an event he has won five times. Alas, his putter — which served him so well earlier this season in narrow defeats — abandoned him over the Muirfield Village layout, laying to waste his tournament-best ball striking from tee to green.

By Sunday afternoon, Woods had finished six strokes in back of Bryson DeChambeau — who outlasted Byeong Hun An and Kyle Stanley in a playoff — at least partly because Woods finished 72nd in putting among the 73 golfers who completed four rounds.

To a degree, this is golf for everyone, even the legends of the sport. Or as the late comedian Gilda Radner often lamented through her "Saturday Night Live" character Roseanne Roseannadanna, her golf chops far more astute than anyone realized: "It's always something."

Yet it has been something different and disastrous for Woods seemingly every month of every year since that Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 when his rather raunchy, adulterous behavior blew up in his face and may have blown up his career.

Not that it's quite that simple, of course. There have been injuries and surgeries, too many swing changes to count and the unstoppable march of time. In other words, Tiger became human, which was often up for debate earlier in his career. But he was also, arguably, the most famous and beloved athlete on the planet — or at least 1-A to Michael Jordan — at the time his wife Elin, the mother of his two children, discovered her husband was something far different than any of us had ever imagined.

You can say that all that has happened since is karma, justice or payback for an image falsely projected, but His Stripeness's emotional grip on the world of golf remains strong, with every tournament much more exciting if he's even remotely in the hunt. He clearly was at the Memorial, which is sometimes known as Jack's Tournament for founder Jack Nicklaus, who still leads Woods in total majors, 18-14.

"I had some chances to shoot some good rounds this week," Woods told reporters after a final-round 72 left him tied for 23rd. "I just need to hit better putts."

The old line that you drive for show and putt for dough used to include him on both fronts. He could blanket the highlight reel both off the tee and on the green at the same tourney. And when that happened, the rest of the field always played for second.

But Woods hasn't won a major since he limped to victory in that 18-hole playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open, his injured knee causing him to shut it down the remainder of that year. Every year since has been marred by scandal, embarrassment, injury or just plain bad golf, at least by his standards.

And so it is at the age of 42 that Woods hasn't won a major since he was 32 and seemingly in easy reach of the Golden Bear's 18 majors, which now seem certain to remain golf's gold standard.


That doesn't mean Woods can't win his fourth U.S. Open title on Father's Day at Shinnecock Hills. Raymond Floyd was 43 years and nine months when he won the tournament there in 1986. Given that Woods led the Memorial in strokes gained, tee to green; strokes gained, approach to the green; and was first in proximity to the hole (23 feet, 8 inches), if he can find his putting stroke over the next 10 days, he just might earn his 15th major title.

"If I just putt normally," he lamented Sunday. "Overall, if I just keep building on this, with how I'm hitting it right now, I'm in good shape for two weeks from now."

He has offered those same words more than once the past three or four years, usually right before the wheels came off again, most often due to back troubles. But he has looked better for longer stretches of time this year than any in recent memory. He seems to have adjusted nicely, if not spectacularly, to his most recent back surgery in April 2017, when doctors fused together his L5 and S1 vertebrae.

Try to process that in your mind. The guy with spinal fusion surgery just put together the best numbers from tee to green in a PGA Tour event. And you think Tiger Woods is unquestionably over the hill?

Come next week, all of this could mean nothing. Woods hasn't won a PGA Tour event of any kind since 2013. But the oldest player to win one of golf's majors was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. In fact, there have been 10 winners of major championships who were 43 or older, so Woods would appear to still have time.

"I keep getting a little bit better," he told ESPN on Sunday. "I'm starting to hit the golf ball better. If I just make a few more putts like I did earlier in the year, when I was putting really well, you put those two together, then we'll have something."

Or we'll have some new Tiger disappointment to be led by the "if" word. But at least on weekends such as this past one, we can wonder if he might still have another major victory or two in him rather than pondering if his tumble from the top will go down as the most surprising and shocking in professional sports history.

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