Tiger struggles again in final round
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Just as one tournament victory never meant that Tiger Woods was a lock to win the Masters, one poor performance should not be viewed as some kind of doom and gloom scenario.
And yet, there were high hopes for Woods at Augusta National this week, especially coming off his impressive win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
But Woods left the site of the year's first major championship without the green jacket he dearly coveted and will head to the Olympic Club in San Francisco in June stuck on 14 majors and in the midst of a four-year drought.
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Woods finished tied for 40th was 15 shots back of eventual champion Bubba Watson.
"I didn't hit the ball very good this week, and what's frustrating is I know what to do, and I just don't do it," said Woods, who shot 74 and for just the second time as a pro failed to break par in any of the four rounds at Augusta. "I get out there and I just don't trust it at all. I fall back into the same old patterns again, and I just need to do more reps.
"Thank God my short game was good this week and my putting was really good. Unfortunately, they were all for pars, not for birdies."
It was one of Woods' worst weeks as a pro on the par-5s. The holes he dominated two weeks ago at Bay Hill -- he birdied 12 of the 16 -- were a mystery at Augusta. Woods made 13 pars, 2 birdies and a bogey to play them 1 under for the week. Last year he was 10 under on the par-5s.
"If I look back on the week, I played the par 5s atrociously," Woods said. "This is a golf course you just have to dominate the par 5s, and I did not do that at all this week."
The fact that he didn't win here this week is not as much of a surprise as Woods' inability to contend. Since his last victory in 2005, Woods had always been a part of the conversation on Sunday, finishing no worse than sixth and with three top-3s.
This time, Woods teed off more than three hours prior to the final pairing of Phil Mickelson and Peter Hanson and was 12 strokes back of the lead. His only hope, really, was to avert his highest finish as a pro, a tie for 22nd in 2004.
But Woods finished at 5-over 293 -- his worst performance in relation to par as a pro at Augusta National, where he's never missed the cut. It was Woods' worst 72-hole performance in a major championship, topping a tie for 39th at the 2003 PGA Championship.
"You're not going to play well every week," he said. "Unfortunately it was this week for me. I had the wrong ball striking week at the wrong time. You know, just got to keep building, keep working and keep progressing."
Things started going poorly for Woods on the back nine of the opening round. He let a good round get away from him by failing to birdie either of the par-5s and then finished with consecutive bogeys for a 72.
Afterward, Woods lamented a poor warmup session and said he was caught between his old swing under then-coach Hank Haney and the new Sean Foley swing. Woods was never able to fix it, at least not well enough to be a factor.
His 75 on Friday effectively took him out of the tournament, the frustration level growing as the round continued, to the point where Woods dropped a club and kicked it on the 16th tee after finding a greenside bunker. He apologized a day later.
"It's just the way it is," he said. "I'm trying to compete, and unfortunately I just didn't play well this week."
As a whole, Woods' year has still been good to this point, especially considering the injury woes he encountered in 2011.
He tied for third at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, tied for 15th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am following a final-round 75 and lost in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
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Woods then tied for second at the Honda Classic following a final-round 62, but withdrew from the WGC-Cadillac Championship during the final round due to an Achilles strain despite being in the top 20 at the time. He finally ended his victory drought on the PGA Tour when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
At Bay Hill, Woods was seemingly past his swing issues, leading the field in greens hit in regulation while driving the ball nicely. He was near the top of the PGA Tour's total driving statistic, which measures distance and accuracy.
"You're never past it. You're never past it," he said Sunday. "With all the different changes I've made in my game over the years, you're never past it. You're still always working on little things. I know the big things that we're working on are done, but it's the little things, too, now. The details sometimes can be magnified. Especially on a golf course like this, it doesn't take much. You're a yard off here or there, which happened to be quite often, and next thing you know, I'm 40, 50 feet away."
Woods did not say when he would play again, but his likely next start is the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte beginning May 4. Woods has played that tournament every year since 2004 when healthy. The Players Championship follows the next week.
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2012 champion: Bubba Watson
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Where: Augusta, Ga.
Yardage, par: 7,435 yards, par-72
Past champions: Complete list