Tiger Appears to Play Best When Leading
His bid to become the first player to win three straight Masters ended when Woods imitated eventual champion Mike Weir by hitting left-handed out of the azaleas on the third hole and making double bogey.
But if past performance is any indication, it was over before Woods got to the first tee.
He figured he needed a 65 in the final round, the same score Jack Nicklaus shot when he rallied from four strokes down to win the 1986 Masters.
And that right there is the difference.
Nicklaus charged into history. Woods prefers to lead the way.
Woods has won all eight of his majors by taking at least a share of the lead into the final round. That's not an accident - it just confirms he's on top of his game, and his opponents have seen enough to know he won't come back to the field.
This week was different.
It started with Woods needing to chip three times on the first green, the last one dropping from 40 feet for an improbable bogey. He needed a gutsy par on his 36th hole - from under a tree and out of a bunker - just to make the cut on the number.
'It was just one of those weeks where I couldn't really get anything going for an extended period of time,' Woods said Sunday after shooting 75 and just before heading to the closing ceremony to present Weir with the green jacket.
Everyone knows that Woods is 28-2 when leading after 54 holes. Flip that around, though, and he is only 8-89 in stroke-play tournaments when trailing.
Sometimes, he was well out of the hunt. But there were seven major championships in which Woods was within five shots of the lead going into the final round - the same margin Len Mattiace made up Sunday at Augusta National - without winning.
Woods has come close three times - the '98 British Open, '99 U.S. Open and last year at the PGA Championship - but he has yet to force a playoff.
Nicklaus, whose 18 majors remain the benchmark, was renowned for his Sunday charges in the biggest tournaments. The Golden Bear came from behind seven times in his career, including five of his first eight majors.
'He's close to perfect, but he's not totally perfect,' said Woods' good friend Mark O'Meara. 'That doesn't mean it will go his way every time, and he knows that.'
If Woods didn't know that when he teed off under sunny, breezy conditions Sunday, it wasn't long before he found out.
He had an 18-foot eagle putt on the second hole that was woefully short, and he settled for birdie. Then Woods made the kind of blunder he usually forces from everyone else.
Caddie Steve Williams talked him into a driver on the 350-yard third hole, and Woods missed it right into the trees, so close to the azaleas that he turned around a wedge and hit it left-handed to get back into the fairway.
'Granted, I hit a good shot to get out, but I also left myself one of the hardest shots on the golf course,' he said. 'On top of that, I semi-bladed it. I kept compounding one problem after another.'
The first pitch went long. The second was short. Two putts from the fringe later, Woods was back to even par and didn't make another birdie until No. 9. By then, he was 3 over par and trailing by nine.
By the end of his career, some of these statistics could balance themselves out. Woods proved he is capable of big comebacks at the 2000 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, when he made up seven strokes over the final seven holes.
He made up eight shots on Ernie Els in one day alone, the final round of the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic, eventually beating the Big Easy in a playoff.
No such luck in the majors, even with a big chunk of history riding on the outcome.
Woods rallied from two holes down with two to play to win his third straight U.S. Junior Amateur. He made up a five-hole deficit after the morning round in 1996 to win an unprecedented third straight U.S. Amateur.
The other time Woods had a chance to win the same major three straight times was at the 2001 PGA Championship. He holed two long putts on the closing holes just to make the cut at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Nicklaus predicted in 1996 when Woods was still a sophomore at Stanford that his fundamentals were so sound he probably would win more green jackets than Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer combined (10).
If that's the case, he might have another shot at three straight green jackets.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18