ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods is this generation’s greatest champion; fourteen majors and 76 PGA Tour titles say it’s so.
Which means the ultimate competitor will always think about the one that got away.
For Woods, the one major championship that hurts most is the 2006 Masters.
Remember, Woods had won the 2005 Masters and was looking for a repeat. He was tied for fourth place after three rounds but was only two shots behind leader Phil Mickelson. Many predicted a Tiger-Phil showdown at Augusta National.
But it never materialized.
Woods shot 36 on the front nine and began to take too many chances over the closing stretch. He was only able to muster a 70 that day, which was only good enough for a third-place tie, three shots behind Mickelson.
“I've lost tournaments before, and I've been through some tough defeats over the years, but nothing like that because I knew my dad would never live to see another major championship,” Woods said Wednesday at Bay Hill. “At the time, going into that final round and on the back nine … I pressed and I tried to make putts that instead of just allowing it to happen, I tried to force it.
“I know he was at home watching, and just really wanted to have him be a part of one last major championship victory. And I didn't get it done.”
Earl Woods died three weeks later. A month after that Tiger missed the cut at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot but later won the British Open and, as he said, “bawled like a little baby” on that 18th green because it was the first major victory without Earl.
Fast forward to present day and it’s still difficult to imagine that Woods hasn’t won a Masters since that 2005 edition eight years ago. Sure, Woods has had chances since but he’s never really pulled off that big back-nine charge.
“Been on the periphery and played myself into the mix,” Woods said. “It just hasn’t happened.
“Hopefully this year it will be a different story, and I'll put myself there and hopefully have Bubba (Watson) put the jacket on.”