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Tiger Woods completes Memorial in career-worst 302 strokes

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Playing solo before thousands of spectators early Sunday morning, Tiger Woods tried to treat as normal as possibly a round of golf that was surreal for him and for those watching.

Never before had Woods been in such a position -- first off, alone, the penalty for being last in a field of 71 players -- and left to finish off a tournament that will go down as one of his worst.

Woods shot an otherwise meaningless 2-over-par 74 -- 11 strokes better than his career-worst 85 on Saturday.

His last-place finish was the first time he finished in last place among players to make a cut in a tournament, according to Elias.

He played the last two holes in 3-over with a double-bogey at the last -- to complete his 15th Memorial Tournament in 302 strokes at 14-over par, his highest 72-hole total ever. David Lingmerth outlasted Justin Rose in a three-hole playoff at the Memorial to win his first PGA Tour event.

The round took 2 hours, 51 minutes. At one point on the 17th green, Woods took out the flagstick, putted, and put it back in while caddie Joe LaCava raked a bunker. There was no one else there to do it.

"Just trying to shoot under par; just go out there and shoot the best score I possibly can," Woods said when asked what was at stake in a tournament where he finished more than two-and-a-half hours before leader Justin Rose was to tee off -- and 29 strokes behind him.

"Just because I'm in last place doesn't change how I play golf. Whether it's the first day or last day doesn't matter, play all out."

Woods did that, studying putts, checking his yardage book with LaCava, getting frustrated at the bad shots and trying to make the best of the situation.

He got to 3-under par for his round with a birdie at the 11th hole, looking far better than he did than shooting the big number on Saturday. But he couldn't finish. The back nine gave him fits all week, especially the final two holes, playing them in 12-over par for the tournament.

His six double bogeys or worse are the most of any tournament in his career.

The 18th was particularly gruesome -- two doubles, and a quad. The only par came on Friday, when he needed to get up and down to make the 36-hole cut on the number.

This was just Woods' fifth tournament of the year, his best finish a tie for 17th at the Masters two months ago. He missed a cut in Phoenix, withdrew in San Diego and was also tied for 69th at the Players Championship.

Woods did not speak with reporters after his 85 on Saturday, but explained his struggles were due in part to the process of making changes in his swing over the last several months with instructor Chris Como.

"I had to go through yesterday -- I had to go through those painful moments, just like I did at Torrey and Phoenix, to be able to make the leap I did at Augusta," said Woods, who took nine weeks off to work on his game following those first two events of the year.

"Yesterday was the same thing. It was just unfortunately on a golf course like this where you can't get away with much. It kicked my butt pretty hard."

Woods said the 85 "felt a lot higher."

"It's hard. It's real hard," he said, when asked if the 85 was humbling. "This is a lonely sport. The manager is not going to come in and bring the righty or bring the lefty, you've just got to play through it. And that's one of the hardest things about the game of golf and it's also one of the best things about the game of golf. When you're on, no one is going to slow you down. Also when you're off, no one is going to pick you up either.

"It's one of those sports that's tough, deal with it. For us, unfortunately, you have those days, they're five hours long. Those are long, tough days."

It was just the third time in his pro career dating to 1996 that he had shot in the 80s, but the second time in 2015. The only other time was at the 2002 Open Championship -- where he rebounded with a 65 on the final day at Muirfield in Scotland.

"You have moments where you go backwards and then you make big, major strides down the road," he said. "That's just the way it goes. You have to look at the big picture. You can't be so myopic with your view and expect to have one magical day or one magical shot and change your whole game. It doesn't work that way."

Said Jack Nicklaus, the tournament host who six times shot in the 80s during his pro career (before the age of 40): "You go up and down and shoot a snowman and all of a sudden you say, 'Gosh, how did I do that?' Then you go back and the next day you shoot a 68 or a 67 and find out why you did that.

"That's part of the learning experience, and even at age 39 years old that's still a learning experience. He'll be fine."

Woods said a blister on one of the fingers of his left hand kept him from practicing after his round Saturday. He expects to putt for the next few days before resuming full practice in anticipation of the U.S. Open, which begins June 18 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.

"Hoping a lot better than I am now," Woods said of his chances at the U.S. Open. "Today was more what we've been doing on the range. And to be able to step up and tag those drives like I did today and even shape some of the irons, which I was struggling with early in the week. ... I got those shapes back again, but doing it with a different pattern.

"It's more just the overall swing. Just trying to hit the ball in the correct spots on the golf course but still continue to stay committed to our plan and what we're trying to do."