April 10, 2011
There are a lot of things you can say that Tiger Woods did back in the day better than he does now, but the one thing that always seemed to be steady was the fact that Tiger would make the short putts he had to make. He might not have been the sharpest off the tee, or hitting his irons the best, but when Tiger had to make a putt, for whatever score, it seemed to always roll in the middle of the hole.
That sure wasn't the case this week at Augusta National, and it's the reason we aren't talking about Tiger's fifth green jacket right now. Not to take anything away from an incredible finish by Charl Schwartzel, but over and over again throughout the weekend, Tiger had short putts that were must make and he just couldn't do it. It started on Saturday at the 11th, when Tiger three-putted for bogey, and then followed that up with a three-putt on the 15th, both with extremely short putts that he couldn't cash.
[Related: Schwartzel rallies to Masters win]
Then came Sunday, after Tiger made an incredible charge over the first eight holes. Moving to the back nine, Tiger missed a tap-in on the 12th for par and then failed to birdie the par-5 13th hole for the first time since the third round of 2009.
He was still very much in the hunt, however, as he stood in the fairway on the 15th, and hit the shot of his day that nestled 5 feet from the hole. If Tiger could roll in that eagle putt, he'd move to 11-under, and put his name atop the Masters leaderboard, but he couldn't do it, and the reaction said it all. Tiger knew he had to make that putt just as much we all at home knew it, and when that putt didn't drop, the Masters was all but done for Tiger.
"I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine," he said, "and I only posted even." (Still, it's worth noting that even had Tiger posted 4-under, he would have only tied Charl Schwartzel.)
It's strange to watch Tiger fail to convert the short putts he never missed before, and as much as he's working on his full swing, he probably should spend some time on the putting green and find that stroke that always made it look so easy.
For now, Tiger will again look back on a golf tournament with disappointment, knowing he put the ball on the greens in the right spot, but just couldn't convert the putts.
When asked if there was a shot he'd like back, Woods was emphatic: "Oh, we can't do that. We do that every week and we would go crazy, wouldn't we?"