Don’t let a bad U.S. Open fool you, Tiger isn’t done winning majors

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Last month, on the Italian island of Capri, a tour guide named Sasa approached an American visitor wearing an Augusta National cap. Sasa had never heard of the iconic site of the Masters, had never played 18 holes and had referred to a golf course as a golf “field.” The guide said he knew only one thing about the world’s most maddening game.

Tiger Woods,” he said. “He was such a legend. Whatever happened to him?”

It’s a long story, Sasa was told. And that story only got longer over two days here at Shinnecock Hills, where Woods looked about as comfortable as a U.S. Open fan stuck in one of those only-in-Long Island traffic jams. Tiger followed up his 8-over 78 on Thursday with a 2-over 72 on Friday, finishing his 36-hole misadventure 14 shots behind one of his playing partners, Dustin Johnson, whose staggering power, precision and athleticism gave Woods an up-close reminder of the terminator he used to be.

“It was good to see,” Woods said of DJ’s dominance.

Yes, this one hurt. Tiger came in on a yacht and left in a rowboat. His encouraging tour results at the Valspar and at Arnie’s place (Bay Hill) — and the way he hit the ball at Jack’s place (Muirfield Village) — fueled the belief that the 42-year-old comeback kid would win a major this year, or at least could win a major this year, to resume his improbable pursuit of Nicklaus’ record 18 major titles. Woods was actually among the favorites at the Masters, where he struggled and tied for 32nd. He was considered a legitimate threat here at Shinnecock, where he four-putted on his way out the door.

But this is no time for Tiger fans to panic, or to accept the notion that Woods will occasionally challenge his younger opponents in the minors without ever again conquering them in the majors. This is a time for Tiger fans to, you know, trust the process.

Before the Masters in April, Woods hadn’t played in one of golf’s four signature events since 2015. He hadn’t placed in the top 15 in one of golf’s four signature events since 2013. He hadn’t won one of golf’s four signature tournaments since 2008.

Woods was never going to saunter back into the Masters and/or the U.S. Open and do to the field what Johnson has done here so far. Earlier this spring, Tiger called himself “a walking miracle.” Last year’s spinal fusion surgery — his fourth back surgery since 2014 — liberated him from the kind of debilitating pain that left him bedridden and unable to enjoy the life of a father frolicking with his kids.

Tiger had to rebuild…