They say the Masters Tournament really begins Sunday on the back nine. For Tiger Woods yesterday, that's precisely where it ended.
Woods started the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament seven shots behind 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy.
After an explosive front-nine score of 31, highlighted by four birdies and an eagle, Woods seemed destined for what many considered an improbable come-from-behind victory—improbable only because the Tiger Woods we now know has more often than not been a shadow of his former competitive self.
But for a while there, for a couple dramatic hours, all signs pointed to Tiger Woods winning the 2011 Masters Tournament. The four-time champion had his swing and fist pump in-tune. The momentum and the crowd were behind him. And not only could all of Augusta National Golf Club hear it, they could feel it.
Tiger Woods was on the prowl again.
He managed the difficult 10th and 11th holes, hitting both fairways and greens before routinely two-putting for pars. Fair enough. Pars are good scores on those holes.
In the middle of Amen Corner, his tee shot to one of the most difficult par threes in the world landed in the center of the green. It was the obvious play. It was safe. Three putts later, however, all the momentum he had built over the previous 11 holes had disappeared.
Knowing there were still two par fives to negotiate, Woods hit his best tee shot of the week on the first of them, the vulnerable No. 13, a hole he was more-under-par on than any other during his 17 years at Augusta. But a long approach, a poor chip and two putts equaled a mere par. For Woods, it probably felt more like a bogey considering his previous success there.
More importantly, it signaled the beginning of the end of his 2011 Masters run. Rather than walking off the 13th green at 11-under-par, he was at minus-nine instead.
Adding insult to injury, Woods missed a very makeable 10-foot birdie opportunity at No. 14. But it was the eagle miss at 15 that finally broke his back.
A perfect drive and short iron landed six feet from the cup. Six feet for eagle. The silence was deafening as Woods sized up his great redemption—until the groans that followed announced what could have been.
Woods scrambled for a par at 17 and a two-putt par at 18, but the damage had been done. It was an otherwise brilliant five-under-par 67. But, what was almost one of the most memorable comebacks in Masters history turned out to be nothing more than a fourth-place finish.