PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Fresh off a seven-shot victory, Tiger Woods was displaying the kind of dominant golf that would allow the world’s top-ranked player to finally end his longest drought of not winning a major championship.
Or so many thought.
Coming off his win at the British Open — the claret jug even made an appearance here during the week — Phil Mickelson seemingly had positioned himself for an expected run at a second straight major.
Or so many thought.
Golf is a fickle game that almost always gets the last laugh, though. It’s occasionally borrowed, even by the best players, yet never owned. The performances by Woods and Mickelson at the 95th PGA Championship are just the latest examples of that.
Woods shot a 3-over-par 73 on Saturday, and in seven career PGA rounds at Oak Hill Country Club has yet to break par. He’s 4 over through 54 holes, 13 shots back and tied for 48th. He has no chance of winning on Sunday, which means he’ll go without a major championship for the fifth consecutive calendar year.
Mickelson has been even worse. He shot 78 in the third round, which matched his highest score ever at the PGA, and is 10 over par.
The world’s Nos. 1 and 2 haven’t done much at Oak Hill to give their vocal supporters many reasons to cheer.
“We don’t play well every week,” Woods said. “It was hard for me, I didn’t play very well today. I didn’t hit it very good, didn’t make anything. I didn’t start off very good and I didn’t finish very good. It was a tough day.”
Which is surprising, considering the comparisons of Oak Hill to Firestone, where Woods won last week for the eighth time. But he’s had a difficult time keeping his ball in the fairways (21 of 42 through three rounds), and for the second straight day required 32 putts. Simply not good enough.
“Just one of those weeks where it’s just a fraction off, and a fraction off on a setup like this, it’s going to cost me,” Woods said. “Pressing it? Yeah, at times, when I’m underneath trees and I’m in bunkers and trying to get up and down, yeah.”
Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion from Hopkinton High, has been paired with Woods all three rounds at Oak Hill, and also played with him in the third round last week at Firestone. Like Woods, Bradley played well in Akron, with a tie for second, and with his track record at the PGA — he tied for third last year, after winning his debut — was viewed as a strong pretournament challenger. But like Woods, Bradley has struggled to carry any momentum over. His Saturday 72 left him at 3 over, tied for 38th.
“He’s the same Tiger, it’s the same me, it’s just . . . if we could play perfectly every week, we would,” Bradley said. “It’s just been a struggle for both of us, neither of us have made any putts. I’m hitting the ball decent, but it’s just one of those weeks.”
It’s a long season, and for Woods, Mickelson, and Bradley, there are important tournaments left to play. The four tournaments that make up the FedEx Cup playoffs start Aug. 22.
“I’m going to go out tomorrow and shoot the lowest number I can,” Bradley said. “I’ve got next week off. I need a little rest, then go into the playoffs and play well.”