We're in the midst of a golden age of golf parity, an era when anyone within five shots of the lead on the Sunday of a major (which, at one point or another, encompasses pretty much everyone) can bring home one of golf's biggest prizes. And while that keeps hopes of dozens of golfers alive, it's hell on the brands of the sport's biggest names.
This week was one of the most wretched in memory for many of golf's best-known players. Let's take a look at each of them in turn, and see how the Olympic debacle might affect them:
Tiger Woods (+7, finished T21): An unmitigated disaster. After two days, Woods was in prime shape to win his first major in four years. After three, he was rocky but still within striking distance; all he would have needed, in theory, was a three-under performance to force a playoff. But he completely imploded, going +6 over the first seven holes and perpetuating doubts that he'll ever be able to put together four consistent major-level rounds. He should win another major in his future, but Jack Nicklaus' 18-major record looks as safe as it ever has.
Phil Mickelson (+16, finished T65): Miserable from the very first shot. Mickelson's vaunted bounceback ability was nowhere to be seen this week. He's had terrible performances like this before, but rarely in majors. Mickelson has an incredible ability to forget his poor play, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him contend at the PGA Championship. (The British Open has almost always bedeviled him.) Still, the window is closing fast on his chances to win the major he wants so badly.
Rory McIlroy (Missed cut, T95): Highly concerning. McIlroy has now missed cuts in four of five events. Congressional looks a long way away now. This isn't the boy wonder who torched course after course; this is a man adrift. Whether it's lifestyle, preparation or just a really bad stretch, McIlroy is spinning now. Fortunately, he could right the ship at the British ... or he could further spiral downward.
Bubba Watson (Missed cut, T73): Unsurprising. Bubba is a household name entirely because of his Masters win, but he's always been a bit of a flaky golfer. Pairing him with Woods and Mickelson was a stroke of brilliance on the USGA's part, but Watson never appeared particularly comfortable at any time on the Olympic grounds. Still, he's very much a product of the 21st century: brilliance one week, catastrophe the next.
And you? Which of the Big Four do you think will get out of the funk first?
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