Tiger Woods reacts to missing a chance at eagle late in the final round of the Masters that would’ve put him back in contention.
AUGUSTA — Out of everything that has come between Tiger Woods and a major championship the past five years, this time the obstacle was the most unexpected.
The disaster on No. 15 on Friday that started with an approach shot that hit the pin and spun back into the water might have been all that stood behind Woods and a fifth green jacket.
He ran out of holes during a late-round comeback Sunday at the Masters, falling to champion Adam Scott by four shots and finishing tied for fourth at 5-under.
But the question running through everyone’s mind afterward was simple: What if that shot would have missed the flagstick?
“Well, we could do that ‘what if’ in every tournament we lose, so we lose more tournaments than we win out here on tour, so that’s just part of the process and I’ll go back to it,” Woods said.
Without Friday’s one-shot penalty for hitting into the water and eventual additional two-shot penalty for an improper drop, Woods could have been at or near the top of the leaderboard as the final round traipsed through Amen Corner.
Instead, the world’s No. 1 player played catch-up all of Saturday and Sunday and believed he needed to shoot a 7-under 65 to snap a five-year major championship drought.
“I certainly had an opportunity (Sunday),” Woods said. “If I shot 65, I thought I could win it outright, and it looked like that might be the number.”
Woods had opportunities all throughout his final round but struggled with the speed on the greens as rain fell late in the afternoon and missed several birdie putts around 10 feet and two eagle putts on the back nine.
“I had a hard time getting accustomed to the speed,” Woods said. “The speed was so much slower than it was (Saturday), and that was before it rained. Then they changed pretty dramatically. I struggled hitting putts hard enough. Every putt I left short for probably the first eight holes.”
While he struggled around the green Sunday, he said his mind wasn’t even thinking about the drama surrounding his two-shot penalty.
“No, not when I’m playing,” he said. “No. Absolutely not. I got to focus on what I need to do, where I need to place the golf ball and shoot the lowest score I possibly could at that moment.”
Woods entered the tournament as a heavy favorite after winning three of five events he played in this year. He left Augusta with his 11th Top 5 finish — but walked away wanting more.
“I had my opportunities to finish with some good numbers this week, and I felt like I really played well,” he said. “And that’s a good sign.”
RISING STAR: Before becoming the youngest golfer to play at the Masters and the youngest to make a cut in a major championship since 1900, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was virtually unknown to American golf fans.
Now the Chinese phenom is thinking about sticking around in the States for awhile.
After shooting a 12-over 300 to become the low amateur, Guan said after Sunday’s round that he has gotten several invitations to tournaments since becoming golf’s newest rising star.
“Before the Masters, we are probably going back (to China) next week,” Guan said. “But we have a lot of — a couple invitations for me. So we have to consider what to play, what not.”
Guan’s father, Han Wen, said it’s ultimately up to him what opportunities his son takes advantage of with his newfound fame.
“I have my own ideas and my own opinions. I want to play where I can get more opportunities (for him), and it’s totally up to me,” Han Wen said. “I’m free to play in China. All tournaments in China for juniors are free.”
Han Wen sat among family and friends in the rear of the interview room Sunday, listening to Tianlang address reporters about everything from his professional aspirations to his current studies.
The teenager, who had nothing worse than a bogey in the tournament and carded six birdies, revealed that he has no plans in the near future to turn pro.
“I’ve not decided yet, but it won’t be too early because there’s still a lot of things to learn to improve,” he said. “So nothing to rush.”
And after a week full of golf that he said was the greatest accomplishment of his life, he admitted he has some catching up to do in schoolwork.
“Yeah, probably (Sunday night),” he said when asked when he would study. “(In) China, you didn’t take class; they give you the class. So there’s a lot.”
NOT PRETTY: Sometimes Bubba Golf can get a little unpredictable.
Sunday, it got a little ugly.
The Georgia grad and 2012 Masters champ scored a 7-over 10 on the par 3 12th after hitting three balls into the water. Watson sank a 20-footer to salvage the 10 and finished the tournament at 7-over and tied for 50th.
“When you look back at this week I had nine three-putts, three balls in the water on 11, a 10. So when you add all that up, a tie for 50th is a pretty good week,” Watson said. “You know, it took me until I was — until three years ago to make my first hole-in-one. If you play golf long enough, you’re going to make a hole-in-one. I’ve had three, and I had one this week. And you’re going to go the other way, as well; you’re going to have bad scores, as well. (Sunday) was just my day to have a bad score.”
Kevin Na also carded a 10 on the 12th after finding the water three times, but the American took solace in the fact that he didn’t have the only double-digit score
“(Watson’s 10) makes me feel a little better,” Na said.
Watson didn’t mind sharing the lowlight, either.
“So we tied, so we were even after that hole,” Watson said. “You know, it’s funny, if you’re not going to win, you’ve got to get in the record books somehow, so I’m a guy that got a double-digit score on a par 3.”