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    As Always, Woods Battles to the End

    Tiger Woods on No. 1
    Charles Laberge/Augusta National
    Tiger Woods hits his second shot on No. 1.

    Tiger Woods was drenched, he was spent, he was hungry, but he was not shaken about what could have been out there in the rain on Sunday in the final round of the Masters.

    Before he even walked to the first tee, Woods said, he knew what he had to do.

    “Shoot 65—that was the number,” he said. “I certainly had an opportunity today.”

    Woods didn’t reach his number. He missed by five strokes, shooting a gritty 70 that earned him a tie for fourth place. He finished the week at 5-under par 283, four shots behind Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera, who dueled in a two-hole sudden-death playoff that Scott won with a birdie at No. 10. Sure enough, had Woods shot 65 on Sunday, he would have won the Tournament outright.

    Instead, Woods, a four-time winner at Augusta National, recorded his eighth top-five finish at the Masters in the last nine years.

    Woods hasn’t won the Masters since 2005, and he now has eight consecutive rounds at Augusta National without a score in the 60s.

    Woods blamed his putting and said he wasn’t at all comfortable with the speed of the greens, which were slowed by rain on Sunday afternoon.

    “I had a hard time getting accustomed to the speed of the greens,” he said. “The speed was so much slower. I struggled hitting putts hard enough.” 

    Woods hit seven of 14 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, but he also needed 31 putts, more than in any other round this week. He averaged 29 putts per round. 

    When he shows up at Merion for the U.S. Open in June, Woods will have gone a full five years without winning a major championship. His last victory in a major came at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which he won dramatically on a fractured left leg. He remains four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 professional major titles.

    There are more numbers, though, to consider about Woods' performance this week. It may well be remembered for the two-shot penalty he received for playing from a wrong place on the 15th hole in Friday’s second round.

    But Woods will surely remember his slow start on Sunday. It was the exact opposite of what he hoped to do. Needing a fast start, he began with four straight pars and then three-putted the par-4 5th for a bogey. He had four three-putts in all for the week.

    When Woods reached No. 7, his second shot landed in the front bunker and he faileld to get up and down.  

    Now 2-over par for the round and 1-under for the Tournament, he was eight shots off the lead of Cabrera. Woods failed to birdie the par-5 8th, his fortunes seeming as gloomy as the weather, but he would not go quietly.

    He closed out the first nine with a birdie at No. 9, another at the 10th and a third, two-putt birdie at the par-5 13th. He made another two-putt birdie at the par-5 15th to reach 5-under. So when Woods strode onto the 16th tee, he had climbed to within three shots of the head, held by Jason Day at the time.

    After a strong tee shot to the familiar Sunday flag on the left side of the green, Woods missed an eight-foot putt for birdie, the ball drifting low and to the right, past the hole.

    There would be no magic for Woods, who had run out of time to make up the difference between him and leaders.

    And as for the penalty that cost him two shots – not mention his bad break of hitting the flagstick on that hole and having his ball carom into the water, requiring the fateful drop – Woods refused to say that it cost him the Tournament.

    “We could do that ‘what if’ in every tournament we lose,” Woods said. 

    Woods' Second on No. 13
    Chris Trotman/Augusta National
    Woods Reacts on No. 13
    Chris Trotman/Augusta National