For Tiger, fast start ends in familiar finish


SAN MARTIN, Calif. – When Tiger Woods birdied four of his first six holes Sunday, playing partner Arjun Atwal had a sense of déjà vu.

'He looked like the old Tiger,” Atwal said.

Adding a fifth birdie and a bogey, Woods made the turn in 4-under 32, but his progress stalled on his second nine. For the third consecutive round, he shot 3-under 68, good for a middle-of-the-pack finish in the Open.

For Woods, it was a round and a tournament that may be remembered more for a fan throwing a hot dog in Woods’ direction in the final round than for his play at CordeValle.

For the second straight day, Woods was in the first group off, starting on No. 10 with friends Atwal and Rod Pampling. He got off to a fast start, with a birdie at his first from a dozen feet.

Woods hit the fairway at the par-5 12th for the first time all week, then finished off his lone birdie there by getting up and down from 25 yards. Consecutive birdies at 14 and 15 for the second time in three days had Woods to 4 under and conjuring visions of a dramatic Tiger charge.

His momentum halted, however, when Woods bunkered a pulled tee shot at the par-3 16th. The bogey ended his rally despite a bounceback bird at the 284-yard 17th hole.

Par-3 holes bedeviled Woods throughout the week. He bogeyed No. 3 on Thursday and Saturday, and No. 16 – where he made birdie after a rousing tee shot Friday – exacted revenge Sunday.

Woods played a lackluster final nine, making two bogeys and a pedestrian birdie at the par-5 ninth to close the tournament at 7 under, 10 shots out of the Briny Baird-Bryce Molder playoff. Misses from 8 and 15 feet to open the side were demonstrative of Woods' week-long struggle to master the CordeValle greens.

'I've struggled all week with the reads and especially the speed,” Woods said. “I made the adjustment of putting more lead tape on the putter and still struggled.”

Atwal said he believed Woods could take a lot of positives from the week.

'He's got to feel encouraged. He's just got to play more,' Atwal said.

Woods agreed, but could not help but dwell a little on the mistakes – his dozen dropped shots – instead of the 19 birdies he made this week.

'I got better every day,” he said, “and unfortunately, (there were) a couple of times where I kind of didn't get the momentum going when I had a couple of chances to make putts or I hit a bad shot.'

The reps Woods has said he needs will not come on the PGA Tour, however. Woods will next play competitively at the Australian Open, in November before the Presidents Cup.

'It's a process,” Woods said. “I don't know what the end is. That's one of those things when the career is all said and done. But I'm in the midst of it and I know I'm getting better and that's the tough part.'