Tigers Woods didn't win the Masters on Sunday. Again. Much will made of the two shot penalty he incurred for an incorrect drop after hitting the pin and having the ball roll into the water hazard on the 15th hole Friday. Woods finished the tournament tied for fourth, four shots behind Adam Scott who triumphed in a playoff. Without question the two strokes made a difference. They impacted the way he played the final 36 holes. That being said, Tiger had opportunities. Again he failed to capitalize.
Woods' is without question one of the greatest golfers of all time. His 14 major titles are second to Jack Nicklaus who won 18 of them. Despite not winning any of the four big tournaments since 2008, Woods' is ranked number one in the world. However, he is not the same player that he once was.
Sixteen years ago Tiger dominated Augusta National. He set records for scoring and margin of victory. His fourth place finish this year was his sixth top five finish and seventh top 10 position at the Masters since his last victory in 2005. For anybody else that is really good. For Tiger Woods, like UCLA basketball, it is not good enough.
At UCLA they do not hang Final Four banners. They only celebrate championships. Woods' is much the same. He has long considered winning major championships all that matters. He cashed a check for $352,000 this week. Who cares?
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The first four major championships Woods' won he did so by a combined 36 strokes. Besides five stroke victories in the 2005 British Open and 2006 PGA, his other eight major titles have come by a margin of 12 strokes plus two victories in playoffs. However, the margin of victory doesn't matter. It is the fact he has now played in 15 straight majors without winning one that is staggering. Of those 15 Tiger has finished in the Top 10 eight times. During his prime, between the 2000 U.S. Open and 2007 Masters Woods' won 10 times and finished in the top 10 on six other occasions.
Putting was once again the difference between contending and winning for Woods' this week. Tiger entered play as the best putter on tour. At Augusta he ranked 26th. On Sunday he was the 46th best golfer on the green out of 61 on the course.
Woods has three more chances to win a major this year, and at age 37 still plenty of time to break Nicklaus' record. He has not won a title at one of the four majors since suffering significant injuries and going through a very public divorce four years ago. His game has improved after not winning any tournaments in 2010 and 2011. He likely will never dominate the way he once did, but in order for him to win a major, he must improve his putting. He no longer can intimidate opponents into submission.