PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Please, you're disrespecting the courses. Don't.
When you bray on about Tiger Woods' major drought, as if the golf courses somehow should be irrelevant in the case of this one golfer, well ... you might make the courses mad.
If the courses get mad, they might start being mean to people.
Oh, wait -- they already do that, but the evidence does hint that all the post-PGA Woods chatter ought to hush, posthaste. Shelve it until next August, when the 2014 majors will have stopped at Augusta National, where his record of contention is remarkable; at Pinehurst, where he has finished T-3 and sole second in two U.S. Opens; at Royal Liverpool, where he won the 2006 British Open in a sterling display of iron play; and at Valhalla, in Louisville, where he won the 2000 PGA in a fracas with Bob May.
Stop equating that kind of slate -- or, say, his major-less 2010 -- to 2013, when his T-40 at Oak Hill pretty much mirrored his T-39 at Oak Hill in 2003. Notice his striking consistencies on some major courses, and guess that the courses might just matter. Golfers all the time claim a certain course "looks good to my eye," as Jim Furyk just got through saying about Oak Hill, so maybe Oak Hill doesn't catch Woods' eye, even as he properly exalts the course's hard fairness. Courses do matter to golfers, and Woods might just be a golfer.
In 2003, when Woods won five times on the PGA Tour but did not win a major, he said at Oak Hill, after the PGA, "This year has been frustrating, since I've been there with a chance going into the weekend, every [major] except for this one."
In 2013, when Woods has won five times on the PGA Tour but did not win a major, he said at Oak Hill, after the PGA, "I was close in two of them. I was right there and certainly had a chance to win the Masters and British this year."
Just as there's a rational chance that Woods is not Woods anymore, there's a rational chance that the last three major courses, especially Oak Hill, provided insufficient evidence that Woods is not Woods anymore, even with his rebuilt swing. (In his major-less 2003 during another swing transition, he played the majors in an aggregate 18-over-par; in his major-less 2013, he played them in 14-over-par.)
In his 64 majors as a pro, he has played one course 17 times (Augusta National), one course thrice (St. Andrews), 15 courses twice each and 14 courses once each. Amid a wide flood of populous talent in the game, he has 14 wins, 20 top-2's, 24 top-3's, 30 top-4's, 31 top-5's, 38 top-10's and 47 top-20's. The more you look at his major record, the more astounding it grows. (He has seconds and thirds stashed in there that nobody but savants and star-struck marshals even remember anymore: 1998 British, 2002 PGA, 2007 U.S. Open ...)
Only seven times in the 64 has he finished worse than 30th (counting three missed cuts), and two of those have come in the two tries at Oak Hill. T-39 and T-40 on one course might not be a thorough sample, but they're a curious start.
Other courses have shouted some. At Winged Foot, Woods has a T-29 in a PGA and a missed cut in a U.S. Open. Atlanta Athletic Club saw not only one of his three missed cuts, but also a T-29 at the 2001 PGA that involved a precarious escape of the cut that Friday, with a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 15 and a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 16. (Atlanta Athletic Club and Oak Hill are the two courses that have seen Jason Dufner post the best or co-best score after 72 holes, so maybe those two courses are in some sort of cahoots.)
At Olympic in San Francisco, Woods has gone T-18 and T-21. At Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, he has gone T-24 and T-28. At Carnoustie, the finishes went T-7 and T-12, even though the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie probably rates a chucking-out for its unkind setup. On the sunny side, there's Medinah: win and win. There's Hazeltine, second and second; Pinehurst, T-3 and second; Bethpage, win and T-6, and Pebble Beach, a 15-shot win in 2000 and a T-4 in 2010 (a year that, like 2014, had looked promising site-wise). St. Andrews, with two wins and a T-23, rates only slightly fuzzier.
Only on four courses have his standings diverged much. In Britain, he has the T-24 and T-9 at Royal Troon, the T-25 and T-3 at Lytham & St. Annes, and the T-28 and T-6 at Muirfield (with the T-28 owing to an 81 in washing-machine conditions in 2002). In the United States, he has the T-12 and the win at Southern Hills in Tulsa, with the T-12 in a U.S. Open and the win in a PGA.
He has been better than anyone else on most courses, but that doesn't make him better than anyone else on all courses. If we get to next August and his drought has reached 22 majors after his financially prosperous 2013 -- and after Augusta, Pinehurst, Liverpool and Louisville -- then let the chatter churn.
But after a year with Merion and Muirfield and especially Oak Hill? Move on. Hear the courses. Sometimes they insist.