Since there doesn’t seem to be a link my column in today’s National Post, here is an unedited version I submitted to the paper:
Four three putts, a couple of terrible breaks in bunkers, an overzealous photographer, and some strong play from Geoff Ogilvy: That’s what it took to end the latest remarkable stretch of victories by Tiger Woods.
Some of the factors that contributed to his fifth-place finish at the weather-delayed CA Championship yesterday were outside his control, but Woods placed the blame where he knew it belonged — squarely on himself and a balky putter.
“I made too many mistakes this week,” said Woods, who finished two shots back. “I had ample chances to get myself up there on that board and win the tournament and just didn’t do it.”
Those apparent mistakes, which were often putts that burned edges or refused to fall, ended his streak of five official wins on the PGA Tour stretching back to the BMW Championship at the start of last September. Add to that were his victory a week before Christmas at the Target World Challenge, his own charity event packed with a field full of golf ‘s best, and his comeback win in Dubai on the European Tour in February.
Perhaps even more remarkably, if it were not for a runner-up finish to Phil Mickelson at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston in the second FedEx Cup event during the first week of September, Woods would have had seven straight PGA Tour wins heading into this past week at Doral.
Golf has its amazing streaks — Byron Nelson’s 11 wins in 1945 is most often referenced, but Ben Hogan’s five victories in six starts in 1953, including three major championships, is also worth noting, as is Bobby Jones’ Grand Slam in 1930.
There’s little doubt Woods’ play in the past three years — winning 23 of 35 PGA Tour starts –may well be the best the game has ever witnessed.
And if a couple of Woods’ putts this week found the bottom of the hole, the streak would be intact heading into the Masters.
How close was Woods to pulling off a win despite his putting struggles? Closer than he should have been. Starting yesterday with only seven holes to play, Woods found himself five shots behind Ogilvy. And for about an hour it looked like the Tiger might pull off the improbable, as he made three birdies in six holes. But after blasting a ball more than 330 yards down the fairway on the 18th, his approach to the green came up short of the flag and he couldn’t will the putt into the hole, as he did a week earlier at winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
Yesterday, Woods — sounding a bit like Hogan — said few would recognize how minute the difference was between finishing fifth or first.
“I don’t think you guys really understand, or even the fans out there, just how small the difference is,” he said. “I just explained what happened this week, how close [I was.] If I just clean up my round this week, then obviously I’m right there with Geoff, if not just a little bit ahead of the 17 [under par] he’s at right now.”
Maybe Woods was right about his assessment, as Ogilvy surely understood Tiger’s remarks.
“He just had one of those weeks,” Ogilvy said.
“At some point they stop going in, and I guess they stopped going in for him this week.”
At his next tournament, however, Woods recognizes his magic touch could return.
“You want to always win every one you play in,” he said. “So you’ve just got to get ready for the next one.”
That next one for Woods is Augusta and The Masters and everyone in professional golf should be worried because Tiger sounds ready to start a new streak.