Tiger Woods needed all his golf magic on Sunday at the Tour Championship, but the living legend couldn't summon more than a trickle.
Woods started the day 14 shots off the lead at three over par. The only chance he had of getting back into contention was by going extremely low while the leaders tanked.
Unfortunately for Tiger, he never got into a scoring rhythm until late into his round, finishing the final round at East Lake with a score of 67, even par for the tournament.
Woods jumped out to a promising start, making birdie on the par-three second hole. His approach shot wasn't anything to write home about, but he more than made up for it by draining his 34-foot birdie putt to move to two over par.
As had been the case all weekend, however, Woods couldn't keep the birdie train rolling. He made par on his next five holes—missing on a few birdie opportunities—before dropping a stroke on No. 8 to move back to three over par.
Woods followed up his bogey with another birdie on the ninth hole, however, moving him back to one under par on the day and two over par on the tournament.
He failed the reach the 604-yard par five in two shots, leaving himself roughly 60 yards to the pin. His third shot was a beauty of a pitch that checked up right next to the hole, leaving him with a tap-in for his birdie.
Woods' stats on the front nine tell the story of a golfer who just isn't quite on his game, as shown by GC Tiger Tracker:
Starting out the back nine, Woods made par on No. 10 and No. 11 before firing a "laser" into the 12th green, setting himself up for another birdie, which he converted:
He then made par on the 13th hole and followed it up with two birdies in a row on No. 14 and No. 15, putting himself in red figures for the first time all weekend:
Unfortunately for Woods, his late flurry of birdies was too little, too late.
And to make matters worse, he then bogeyed No. 16, killing his momentum yet again and moving him back to even par for the tournament.
And that's where he finished after making par on the final two holes on Sunday.
Woods was simply too erratic this weekend at East Lake to consistently post low scores. He struggled with accuracy off the tee and into the greens, and he never got his putter going.
Many fans and analysts alike will point to his inability to win major championships this year, combined with his poor finish, as a way to tear down the legendary golfer's season.
But to do so would be a mistake.
Woods won five tournaments this year, which is more than any other golfer on the PGA Tour. For any other golfer on the planet, this would be considered a rousing success.
And though his below-average finish at the Tour Championship wasn't what he had hoped for, Woods did manage to get better every single day, as Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel pointed out:
Woods received a generous welcome on the 18th hole by the waiting crowd, despite his inability to contend this week. It's a sign of the respect and admiration fans still have for him even in his down moments, as Adrian Stone touched on:
With the 2013 season in the rear-view mirror, Woods will now look ahead to next season. He dealt with a nagging back injury for much of this past season, and he'll certainly use this offseason to rest up and strengthen his body.
From now until next April, he'll face an unending stream of questions about when his five-plus-year major drought will come to an end. You can be sure he'll be eager to answer those questions with a win when the 2014 Masters kicks off at Augusta National.
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