Woods Settles for Just Contending

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TROON, Scotland -- Zero for nine is a streak that would have been hard to imagine for Tiger Woods after he won the U.S. Open two years ago. But after struggling on the back nine at the British Open on Sunday, Woods failed again in the major championships he once dominated.
 
A player so used to winning now has to settle for being in contention.
 
Woods had only one birdie on the windy back nine of Royal Troon all week - the 16th on Thursday - and none in the final round as he tried to mount a challenge.
 
'Well, I had a chance this week and felt like I really could have won this tournament, but obviously I didn't win,' said Woods after a 72 left him seven shots behind Todd Hamilton and Ernie Els at 3-under 281.
 
Hamilton defeated Els by one stroke in a four-hole playoff.
 
'I got off to a nice start there, but on the back nine it went the other way,' Woods said.
 
At least he was in contention for the first time since the British Open a year ago at Royal St. George, where he was two strokes back, tied for fourth. But to win his ninth major title, Woods needed to come from four strokes behind.
 
He's never done that. He had the lead, or at least a share of it, going into the final round of the eight majors he won.
 
A run seemed in the making at Royal Troon when Woods birdied Nos. 5 and 6, which put him just three strokes off the lead. But he missed a makable birdie putt at seven, ending his mini-charge.
 
'When I got through at six, I felt like, if I could post nine or 10 (under) or somewhere in there, I would have a great chance of winning or forcing it into a playoff,' he said. 'Then I had that short putt on seven and missed it.
 
'If I just would have played the back nine decent and shot 3 under par and posted a number early, you never know.'
 
Since Woods' last major victory in 2002 at the U.S. Open, he has finished an average of eight strokes behind the winner in the subsequent nine majors.
 
A year ago at Royal St. George, Woods snapped when he was asked about a possible slump: 'It's not one of those things I'm really thinking about,' he said.
 
On Sunday, he smiled when the question was posed again, sounding more philosophical than peeved.
 
'It's part of the process. It's part of playing, part of competing,' he said. 'I put myself there. I've had opportunities to win, particularly in the last two years here at this championship. I could have won.'
 
Asked to sum up his play, he replied. 'I didn't make any major mistakes, but I didn't make enough putts. Hopefully, next time in the PGA, I will win the tournament.'
 
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