March 09, 2014

Tiger finishes WGC-Cadillac Championship at 5-over

Tiger Woods didn’t get the start he wanted, then aggravated an already sore bad back Sunday and slipped from contention in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami. In obvious pain from the sixth hole on, the top-ranked Woods finished with a 6-over-par 78 and failed to record a birdie in the final round for the first time in his 19-year PGA TOUR career.

Enthused and optimistic after shooting a tournament-best 66 on Saturday to climb into a tie for fourth, three strokes behind leader Patrick Reed, Tiger never made a charge Sunday on the Blue Monster. He bogeyed three of his first six holes and did well just to complete his round, tying for 25th at 5-over 293, nine shots behind Reed.

“It’s over,” Woods said afterward. “It’s finally done, which is good.”

Already 2-over for the round, Woods pulled his drive into the left fairway bunker at the par-4 sixth and had an awkward stance, standing with his left foot in the sand and his right foot just outside the bunker. Just after making contact, he reached for his lower back and played in discomfort the rest of the way.

“It was just a simple 8-iron,” Tiger said. “The only thing you do on a downhill lie like that is just go forward. Should be no problem, but it was a problem.”

Last week at The Honda Classic, Tiger withdrew on the back nine Sunday due to back spasms. He was uncertain whether he would play at Doral, where he has won four times, but his back improved with treatment and he did not play a practice round.

“It’s tough,” Woods said. “It was just one thing that set it off.”

Tiger has already undergone an MRI and is hopeful his back will improve with more treatment and rest.

“We’ve done all the protocols,” Woods said.

Paired with Hunter Mahan in the second-to-last twosome, Woods parred the first two holes Sunday, missing a 14-foot birdie putt at the inviting par-5 first and a 19-footer at the par-4 second. But he hit a poor second shot at the 448-yard, par-4 third, losing it to the right in the water and sustained his first bogey.

Tiger also dropped a stroke at the 195-yard, par-3 fourth, where he pulled a 7-iron into the left bunker, blasted about eight feet past the hole and two-putted. Woods did well to two-putt the 428-yard, par-4 fifth, knocking his approach shot 50 feet right of the pin. He nearly sunk the mammoth birdie putt, the ball running six feet past the cup, but made the par putt.

Following the bogey at the sixth, Tiger made a nice up-and-down par save at the par-4 seventh, where he drove into the left rough and airmailed his second shot over the green. But he squandered arguably his best birdie chance of the day at the 544-yard, par-5 eighth, where he hit a big drive and reached the green in two from 260 yards, leaving a 40-foot eagle putt. Woods ran his first putt five feet past the hole and missed coming back.

At the 217-yard, par-3 ninth, which played the toughest of the day, he found the green off the tee and managed to two-putt from 50 feet, making the turn in 3-over 39.

Tiger gave himself another great birdie opportunity at the 619-yard, par-5 10th, where hit a nice third shot five feet from the pin but couldn’t convert. Grimacing noticeably, he parred the next two holes, then bogeyed the long par-3 13th and par-4 14th.

After another nice par save at the par-3 15th, Woods went with driver at 293-yard, par-4 16th and finished green-high left. From there, he hit well-judged sand wedge seven feet from the cup but missed the birdie putt.

Tiger scrambled for par at the par-4 17th. At the demanding par-4 18th, he hit his drive into the water on the left — the fifth time he found water during the tournament — and hit a nice third shot to salvage a two-putt bogey.

After hitting 14 greens in regulation on Saturday, he hit only seven on Sunday. It marked only the eighth time in 1,128 career rounds on the PGA TOUR that Woods has failed to post a birdie.

The next event on Tiger’s schedule is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, March 20-23 at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

 “It will be nice to take this week off and get ready,” Woods said.