Woods admits to pressing too hard
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Nobody loved major championship weekends quite like Tiger Woods, and nobody was feared nearly as much when he got to that stage with a chance to win.
But after another year without a major title, and three decent opportunities to add a 15th such victory, it is reasonable to ask what is holding Woods back in such situations.
And on Sunday following his 11th-place tie at the PGA Championship, Woods let forth with a surprising admission: he was trying too hard.
"I was right there, and I came out with probably the wrong attitude yesterday," Woods said after a final-round 72 left him 11 shots back of winner Rory McIlroy. "I was too relaxed, and tried to enjoy it, and that's not how I play. I play intense and full systems go. That cost me."
Read into that what you want, but wow.
Woods more or less admitted that he felt he was trying too hard in the previous two major championships this year where he had a chance to win. What he didn't admit -- but what could be surmised -- is that he is putting inordinate pressure on himself to close the deal in a major after what is now 18 majors (four of which he missed due to injury) without hoisting a trophy.
"I was trying to enjoy it, enjoy the process of it," said Woods, who dropped to No. 3 in the world rankings behind McIlroy and Luke Donald. "But that's not how I play. I play full system go, all out, intense, and that's how I won 14 of these things. That's something I rectified today and I played a lot better because of it."
It was too late.
Woods began the fourth round five shots behind McIlroy and it was going to be mighty tough to catch a guy shooting 66 in the final round of a major.
Woods admitted the tournament got away from him on the first eight holes Saturday, when he missed makeable birdie putts at the first three holes and never recovered. He bogeyed the fourth, fifth and seventh holes, then was faced with an 8-footer for par when rain halted play. He was unable to convert that putt Sunday morning and ended up shooting 40 on the front nine.
He did play better the rest of the way, but could manage no better than 74-72 in the final two rounds.
"You know how I am; I'm intense and I'm focused on what I'm doing and nothing else matters," Woods said. "I got back to that today and I hit some really good shots and played the way I know I can play."
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Still, for the eighth straight weekend round of a major this year, 36-year-old Woods failed to break par. At the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship, he entered the third round with a chance to win, in two of them holding a share of the 36-hole lead.
That was the case here at the Ocean Course, where he shot 69-71 to open the tournament -- the latter round one of just four under-par scores on a blustery Friday -- to share the lead with Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson.
Woods converted such advantages into victories in eight of his previous 10 attempts at majors but has now gone through three straight without a victory. In each of the past two -- at the U.S. Open and now the PGA Championship -- he could point to a poor third round.
He shot 75 at the U.S. Open and 74 here. Both rounds made the task of victory too difficult.
Here in South Carolina, he putted beautifully for the first two rounds, but wasn't as hot with the putter over the weekend when he hit 10 and 11 greens in regulation, respectively. Over the final 36 holes, Woods made just five birdies; McIlroy had six alone in Sunday's final round.
Since finishing second at the PGA Championship three years ago, Woods has four top-five finishes in majors and his tie for 11th is his best at the PGA over that span. Although he did not get the result he was looking for, Woods spoke positively about giving himself opportunities in the past three majors.
"The thing is to keep putting myself there," he said. "I'm not going to win them all and I haven't won them all. I certainly have lost a lot more than I've won. But the key is putting myself there each and every time and I'll start getting them again."
Woods doesn't have much time to dwell on his major disappointment.
After a week off, he'll be right back to work with the FedEx Cup playoffs, beginning with the Barclays in two weeks. Woods, who has three PGA Tour victories this year to run his career total to 74, leads the FedEx Cup points list.
"We've got a lot of golf to be played the rest of the year, some big events coming up and the Ryder Cup at the end of it," he said. "So looking forward to that."
By then, the opportunity to get that 15th major victory will be only six months away at the next major, the Masters.
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2012 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
In recent months, Rory McIlroy admitted he heard the questions about his game going south. After Sunday's record-setting win at the PGA, those critics have been silenced. Gene Wojciechowski
2012 champion: Rory McIlroy
Course: The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
Where: Kiawah Island, S.C.
Yardage, par: 7,676 yards, par-72