ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- His previous two trips to St. Andrews were defined by triumphant snapshots on the golf course side of the clubhouse. But now, his workweek complete, Tiger Woods was in the back, waiting for his ride and thumbing through his phone as if the secrets of the game could be found there on the tiny screen.
Fans called out, cameras snapped. Minutes passed and the crowd behind the barricade grew. The world No. 1 could barely bring himself to look up.
(Photo by Getty Images)
Contrasts have been unavoidable in a 2010 season that has returned Woods to many of his old stomping grounds, but nowhere was it sharper than the Old Course, to a setting where his prodigious power and connection to the game's history were once on full display; and where even he seemed to suggest he couldn't miss.
It was just last month, remember, when Woods said he wished he could play all four majors in a single season at the Old Course. Perhaps he still feels that way, but after rounds of 73-72-73 to close -- including two double bogeys on the front nine on Sunday -- he now has to accept he's fallible even here.
"That's just the way it goes," Woods said. "I'm not going to win all of them. I've lost a lot more than I won."
He has been losing more than ever this season, of course, for reasons that have run the spectrum: personal distractions, errant ball-striking and now, poor putting. Woods had reached such a point of exasperation that after 11 years with a Scotty Cameron model putter, he switched to a Nike Method model for this week. Then came more of the same at St. Andrews, and he went back to the Cameron for the final round.
"I just felt that my speed was off," said Woods, who added that he wasn't sure which putter he would use moving forward. "Just going back to something where I know how it comes off...I just didn't feel comfortable with my speed, so I went back with my old putter."
If only he could get back his old putting magic in the process, especially when considering Woods' ball-striking for the week was as impressive as it's been all season. But golf doesn't work that way. Woods may have once seemed immune to the game's various cycles, but this season more than ever, he's experiencing golf the rest of the world knows.
"I'm actually driving it better than I have in years, but I'm just not making the putts," he said. "It's ironic that as soon as I start driving it on a string, I miss everything. Maybe I should go back to sprayng it all over the lot and making everything."
-- *Sam Weinman