July 21, 2007

On The Periphery

Tiger Woods carded another sub-par round but he failed to make a charge on the final day at Carnoustie

Tiger never really got his game untracked at Carnoustie.

Tiger never really got his game untracked at Carnoustie.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- For the first time in three years, Tiger Woods won't be sipping out of the claret jug on Sunday night. But he didn't give it up willingly.

"I won't be able to put my beverage of choice in it ... for a year," he said after tying for 12th at the British Open.

That honor goes to Padraig Harrington, who defeated Sergio Garcia in a four-hole playoff.

Woods closed with a 1-under-par 70 -- his third sub-par round of the tournament. But he seldom knocked down the flags and didn't give himself enough quality birdie opportunities.

For the week, he putted well, averaging 28.8 per round. Problem was, he found only 58 percent of the fairways (35-of-60) and an admirable 62 percent of the greens (45-of-72).

"It would have been nice if I would have just hit the ball a little better and just given myself a chance," said the 31-year-old Woods. "I feel like I putted beautifully all week, but I couldn't get close enough. But when I did, I made them. Subsequently I was on the periphery of trying to win a championship."

Woods started the final round eight strokes behind Garcia and knew he needed a fast start on the easier front nine to contend. He opened with three pars, then birdied the par-4 fourth from four feet and the par-4 fifth from six feet.

Arguably the turning point of his round came at the par-5 sixth, usually reachable in two. However, the wind was against him and the rain-soaked fairways were soft, preventing him from trying.

"The problem was I couldn't get there in two," Woods said. "If the wind would have laid down a little bit, I could have gotten there. But the way it was blowing, I would struggle carrying the bunkers, so it would have been driver, driver, and maybe, maybe, you know. But I figured just play smart and there's plenty of holes left."

Especially the way the leaders faltered down the stretch. But for the third time in the tournament, Woods found sand at the 183-yard par-3 eighth and carded his third bogey.

Woods also bogeyed the par-4 11th, then rebounded with a seven-foot birdie at No. 13 and a two-putt birdie from 60 feet at the par-5 14th. He made another bogey at the par-4 15th and parred in, receiving a warm greeting from the appreciative fans around the jam-packed 18th green.

"If I would have posted 6 or 7-under par, I would have been right there in the mix," Woods said. "The conditions and the golf course, the way they were playing, yea you can make some birdies. But also if you just missed a couple shots today, the pins were difficult. If you short-side yourself, you're not going to get up-and-down today. If you go out there, most of the pins are a little bit on the knobs, and it makes for very interesting putting."

Some surmised Woods' downfall came Friday, when he hooked hit first drive out of bounds with a 2-iron and shot 74.

"The second round certainly put me further back, but I could have easily played better that round and gotten back to even par and under par, and I would have been right there," he said. "I had 17 holes to make up for it and I didn't do it."

All told, Woods played the par-3s in 2-over, the par-4s in 1-over and the par-5s in 5-under.

"I spent a lot of time lag-putting," Woods said. "I just had a good feel on the greens, but I couldn't get the ball close enough."

That said, Woods sprinted to the parking lot and flew home to see his wife and new daughter.

"It's hard to believe you can miss something only being gone for a week," he said. "But I certainly do miss them."