Commentary

Tiger free falls in Barclays final round

Updated: August 26, 2012, 7:54 PM ET
By Farrell Evans | ESPN.com

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- On Sunday, Tiger Woods needed a fast start to catch the leaders at The Barclays. The 14-time major champion began the final round 6 shots back of the third round leader, Sergio Garcia. But a rollercoaster front nine -- with three birdies and three bogeys -- didn't help Woods' chances.

Then on the inward side -- when all hope of winning the tournament was seemingly gone -- Tiger unraveled with a double-bogey at the par-4 12th and followed that up with bogeys at Nos. 13, 14 and 16.

He wore a look of dejection as he limped home to a 5-over-par 76 and a tie for 38th.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesTiger Woods shot 76 on Sunday at Bethpage Black in the final round of The Barclays. That's the worst 18-hole score of his entire 2012 season.

It was Tiger's worst score of the year. The last time he shot higher than 76 in any round came in 2010, in the final round at the WGC-Bridgestone, when he shot 77 on Sunday.

Woods' 76 on Sunday at Bethpage Black ties his second-highest score when entering the final round in the top 10. In 1998, he shot 77 in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to finish T-22 after starting the tournament in a tie for second.

After complaining about a stiff back on Friday and the slick greens on Saturday, he should only point the finger at himself for his worst final-round performance of the season.

After his round, Tiger blew off media requests for comment and made a speedy getaway to the parking lot. He didn't bother to offer another excuse or to explain why he hit just 6 of 14 fairways and 6 of 18 greens in regulation on Sunday.

He just left.

Tiger's disappointing performance on Sunday at Bethpage is not surprising, though, considering how he has played for most of the year on the weekends. Of his three wins on the season, he has broken 70 only in both of the last two rounds at the AT&T National at Congressional, where he shot 67-69 on the weekend.

Woods moves on now to the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he last played in 2010, finishing in a tie for 11th. He won the event held at the TPC Boston in 2006 with a final-round 63 for his fifth consecutive tour win that year.

He should continue his good well at Boston, but his performance on Sunday could be a troubling sign of things to come for the remainder of his competitive U.S. schedule. Tiger has three more FedEx Cup events and the Ryder Cup planned.

Davis Love III, the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, can't like what he saw on Sunday from one of his top veterans. Tiger's litany of excuses from a stiff back caused by a soft mattress to the slick greens on Saturday to a camera shutter in the middle of a swing on Sunday can't make Love confident that he will be in top form at Medinah.

At Bethpage, Tiger appeared to lose his focus on Sunday. Starting with an errant drive at the first hole that nearly landed in a hospitality tent, he looked uncomfortable. The methodical and surgical Tiger that ran out to a 68 and 69 in his first two rounds looked like a player not in control of his swing or his mental game by Sunday evening.

Nowadays when things go bad for Tiger during a round, he struggles to right the ship. Those wild momentum swings that had been a mark of his long reign as the best player in the world now seem like a thing of the past.

When he started off with a bogey at the first hole in the final round, it was a good bet that Tiger wouldn't be able to recover to get in a position to contend for the tournament. For most of the day it looked as though he was more in a battle with himself rather than Bethpage Black. But then it always seems that way with him.

Tiger is in desperate need of recovering that mental focus that carried him to 74 PGA Tour wins. The Deutsche Bank Championship is a place for him to resolve some of those issues.

Eleven guys are depending on him to have a high level of mental stamina and toughness at the Ryder Cup in late September. In Chicago, he might be able to avoid the throngs of media after a bad match, but he'll have to face 11 angry men if he quits on them.

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