- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A week that began so promisingly ended rather ominously, the clouds and marine layer hovering over The Olympic Club as Tiger Woods headed out of the locker room and toward a waiting car.
The U.S. Open still was being decided on the course, and Woods was not going to factor in the outcome. Not when he shot 75-73 on the weekend, certainly not after playing the first six holes in Sunday's final round in 6-over par.
He never would admit that this was a setback or a big disappointment, but surely after holding a share of the 36-hole lead, Woods expected to fare better than a tie for 21st at The Olympic Club -- his worst 72-hole finish as a pro in the U.S. Open.
From the lead and thoughts of a 15th major title on Saturday to a finish outside of the top 20 is not what anybody had in mind, especially Woods.
But after a final-round 3-over 73 ran his major-less streak to four years, Woods was not talking like a beaten man, even if inevitably he had to be feeling some sort of despair.
"There's a lot of positives this week," said Woods, who finished with a 7-over total. "Hit the ball really well. Unfortunately I just didn't have the speed of the greens until today.
"But overall, the way I struck the golf ball, the way I controlled it all week is something that's very positive going forward, and if I just would have just hung in there little bit better (Saturday) and missed it on the correct side a couple times then I would have been in a better position going into today."
This was not a repeat of the Masters, where Woods was coming off a victory two weeks prior at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and then lost his swing at Augusta National, struggling to a tie for 40th -- his worst finish there as a pro.
Woods won at the Memorial two weeks ago for his 73rd PGA Tour victory and had high hopes heading here, none of which were dashed after a 69-70 start that saw him tied with Jim Furyk for the 36-hole lead -- a place from where he had been 8 of 9 in converting major championship titles.
But Woods was poor Saturday, making bogeys on four of the first eight holes and converting just one birdie during the round. He lamented difficulty in figuring out the greens.
And yet, where the tournament really got away from him was the last three holes Saturday. Had he played them in even par, Woods would have been in touch with the leaders entering Sunday. Instead, he played them in 2 over and found himself five shots back and in a tie for 14th place entering the final round.
Woods never has won a major after trailing through 54 holes and never has won a PGA Tour event having been worse than a tie for eighth entering the final round. So the odds were not good.
And the chances were gone when Woods started bogey-bogey-double-bogey Sunday.
"The first six, I just didn't play well at all," he said. "I just could never get anything going positively and I missed the ball in the wrong side a couple times, and that's all it takes."
Woods played the last 11 holes in 3 under to salvage some respectability and avoid his worst weekend in relation to par in a major championship.
Still, his tie for 21st is his worst U.S. Open as a pro in which he completed 72 holes. Woods missed the cut at the 2006 U.S. Open -- the only time he's done so as a pro in the tournament -- just more than a month following his father's death. He tied for 20th at the 2003 U.S. Open.
Woods' ballstriking clearly fell off on the weekend. He hit just 20 of 36 greens after hitting 25 of 36 through the first two rounds. He also hit just 12 of 28 fairways after hitting 21 of 28 on Thursday and Friday.
Still, Woods feels much better about his game now than he did after leaving Augusta.
"I'm excited about the consistency of it," he said. "How well I hit the ball all week, really. I didn't really miss it that badly this week. The misses were just a fraction off, which is great. That's what we want to have happen. And this golf course is just so demanding that a fraction off you pay a price."
Asked if he felt it was an opportunity that got away from him, Woods would not acknowledge such a plight.
"Well, you can say that about a lot of tournaments," he said. "Finished close in major championships before, so I had a chance this week, and I'll get after it in another week in D.C."
Woods does not have much time to lament the U.S. Open, as he has a lot of golf in his immediate future.
The AT&T National begins June 28 in Washington D.C., and Woods will play in the Greenbrier Classic on July 5. After another week, it is the British Open at Royal Lytham where Woods will show up having gone 16 major championships (he missed four due to injury) without a victory.
Tiger Woods closed with a 3-over 73 to tie for 21st at U.S. Open.