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Putting thwarts Tiger's charge

WINLESS STREAK CONTINUES

Monday, April 11, 2011

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Tiger Woods charged Sunday like it was 2001, when he regularly dropped clutch putts and collected major titles.

Tiger Woods celebrates an eagle on No. 8 in the final round of the Masters Tournament. He finished in a three-way tie for fourth. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

But this is not that Tiger. This is a 35-year-old golfer still trying to find his touch around the greens. This is a four-time Masters champion hoping to regain his spot atop the world golf rankings. More important, this is a player just looking for a win.

Despite posting a solid final-round 67 at Augusta National Golf Club, Woods extended his winless streak since November 2009. He finished in a tie for fourth at 10-under, four shots behind champion Charl Schwartzel.

Woods tried to break a trend. The former world No. 1 has failed to come from behind after 54 holes to win any of his 14 major titles. Woods entered the final round seven shots off the pace, but quickly made up ground with four birdies and an eagle on the front side.

A faulty putter, especially on the second nine, prevented him from changing history. Woods, along with Justin Rose, led the field with six three-putt greens, including two momentum-killers in the final round. His three-putt from 30 feet at No. 12 -- including a lip-out from three feet -- dropped him out of a tie for the lead.

He never recovered.

After striping a 6-iron from 207 yards out to 41/2 feet at No. 15, Woods appeared primed to make eagle and take his first solo lead of the day. Instead, his ball caught the right lip and sputtered three feet past. Woods settled for a tie for the lead and finished with three pars.

When he left the final green, Woods held the clubhouse lead at 10-under. It proved to be too little.

"I got off to a nice start on the front nine and on the back nine didn't putt well," said Woods, who needed 31 putts in the final round. "I should have shot 3- or 4-under on the back nine, and I only posted even."

With six groups left on the course when he finished, Woods went to grab something to eat. He remained hopeful for a playoff.

"We'll see what happens," he said.

Woods fell one shot off tying the front-nine record, going out in 31. His eagle at the par-5 eighth pushed him into a tie for the lead with Rory McIlroy.

Woods posted his best ball-striking day of the tournament. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. It all went well from tee to green in the final round. He just couldn't make a putt, especially when he needed to.

"I hit it good all day," he said. "This entire weekend I hit it good. So that was a nice feeling."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

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