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Tiger Woods said he had a "terrible day" on the greens Sunday. (Pio Roda/Turner Sports)

For first time, Woods can only watch a major slip away

When Tiger Woods missed what had turned out to be an inconsequential par putt on the final green Sunday, it was a microcosm of his entire day. The man with the nerves of steel saw his putter turn to mush.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

CHASKA, Minn. -- It's not often Tiger Woods is reduced to an afterthought on the 72nd hole of a major championship. Not when he's playing in the final group. Not when he was leading at the start of the final round.

That's exactly what happened on Sunday, though, when Y.E. Yang rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt to win the 91st PGA Championship and celebrated with a series of fist pumps and facial contortions that would have done Woods proud had the roles been reversed.
 

Woods, who had just chipped out of the lush rough beside the green to 5 feet past the hole, could only stand there and watch the 37-year-old Korean do what we all had expected the world No. 1 to be doing. His face was grim. He still had some work left, too. 

And when Woods missed what had turned out to be an inconsequential putt for par to fall three strokes behind in his bid to win a 15th major, it was a microcosm of his entire day.

"I made absolutely nothing," Woods would later say as reality began to overshadow the astonishment so many felt after a player ranked 110th in the world had pulled off such a stunning upset.

"I just have to say terrible day on the greens, and I had it at the wrong time.  I either misread the putt or had bad putts. ... I had plenty of looks. I was certainly in control of the tournament for most of the day, but just didn't make anything today.  I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well. 

"I did everything I needed to do except for getting the ball in the hole."

Until Sunday, Woods had won all 14 times when took the lead into the final round of a major. He had averaged 69.50 to his playing partners' 73.14, for goodness sakes. Small wonder many expected this PGA Championship, where Woods was seeking to win the Wanamaker Trophy for the record-tying fifth time, to be more coronation than competition.

Granted, Yang had picked up his first PGA TOUR win earlier this year at The Honda Classic and he'd posted top-10 finishes in two of his last three starts. Yang could even say he'd won a tournament with Woods in the field after that victory at the 2006 HSBC Champions.

But this was Tiger Woods, who has been nearly invincible when titles are on the line. Not only was he perfect in majors, Woods had won all but three of the 50 previous PGA TOUR events where he'd held the 54-hole lead. He'd won five times already this season, too, including each of the last two weeks.

Sunday was different, though. The man with the nerves of steel saw his putter turn to mush and Yang came up with two brilliant shots -- a chip-in eagle at No. 14 and that towering hybrid to 8 feet at the final hole -- at just the right time to pull off the stunner.

"It's both," Woods said when asked whether he'd lost the PGA Championship or Yang had won. "As I say, I was in control of the tournament most of the day.  I was playing well, hitting the ball well.  I was making nothing, but still either tied for lead or ahead.
   
"And Y.E. played great all day.  I don't think he really missed a shot. He just made that mistake at 17 (when he three-putted).  But other than that, he hit it great all day.  And it was a fun battle.  Unfortunately, I just didn't make the putts when I needed to make them."

As surprised as people may have been at Sunday's events, the world will still turn on its axis tomorrow. And Woods is still the No. 1 player in the game, a man seemingly destined to eclipse Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors and Sam Snead's 82 victories. He'll just have to wait a little longer to put Nos. 15 and 71 on his resume.

No one doubts that those milestones will come, though.

While he's gone winless in majors for just the fourth time since he turned pro in 1996, Woods will have the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup to try to edge closer to Snead. He hasn't finished lower than ninth in 12 stroke play events this season, one which began with uncertainty after reconstructive surgery on the ACL in his left knee.

But it's the majors that drive Woods. Sunday's runner-up finish was his fourth in the last 10, two of which he's also won. That's a pretty good return on the time he's invested with Hank Haney over the years. 

"That's certainly one of the reasons why I changed my game with Hank, is to be more consistent in the big events," Woods said. "My career has certainly been much more consistent over the last five years.  I've finished higher in major championships, if I don't win. And I give myself a lot more chances. 

"That's the only way you're going to win major championships over the long haul is give yourself as many chances as you possibly can.  Nobody in the history of the game has done better than Jack, finished second 19 times.  You have to give yourself enough chances to win them and I've done that. ...

"But unfortunately today I just didn't get it done."
 

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