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Tiger Woods’s Sunday charge falls short at Australian Open as unheralded Greg Chalmers wins

Photo: Paul Miller/EPA

Tiger Woods finished two shots behind winner Greg Chalmers at the Australian Open.

SYDNEY -- He had the famous red Sunday shirt. He made some clutch shots in a customary back-nine charge. But when it came to the crunch, Tiger Woods made just one too many crucial mistakes.

Woods fired a five-under 67 -- one of many highlights from a pulsating Australian Open at The Lakes -- but it wasn't enough to overtake Australian Greg Chalmers, who won his second Stonehaven Cup. He was 13 under, one shot ahead of John Senden and two clear of Woods.

Chalmers left his wife, Nicole, and their 8-year-old son, Max, back at the family's home in Dallas so his son would not miss any school. Chalmers' parents, John and Sandra, have shared babysitting duties this week for his youngest son, 5-year-old Lachlan, who came to Australia with his father.

The left-hander, who first won the Open in 1998 , shed a few tears as he recalled the changes in his world since that day at Royal Adelaide.

"At 26 it was about me; at 38 it's about everyone in my life," he said. "It's a big difference, and while the first one was great, this one feels even better because of that. Winning is great, but who's in your corner is more important for me right now

"Last time I won, I went and sat on a plane back from Adelaide by myself, and this time I get to go and hang out with my parents, my son and a few others. I really wish my wife and my oldest son were here to enjoy it, but it's just as much about them, too."

In a touching moment just as Senden's putt, which would have forced a playoff, slid narrowly by the cup on the 18th, Lachlan said: "Daddy, did you just win a big check?"

Woods, who on Tuesday will mark the two-year anniversary of his most recent professional victory, the 2009 JBWere Masters at Melbourne's Kingston Heath, showed more than the odd glimpse of his trademark final-round heroics.

But in the end, the very reason we've come to love Woods is what cost him his first Australian Open title.
He stood at nine under on the tee of the course's shortest par-four -- the 315-yard 13th -- thinking he had to post a 13 under total to have a chance of winning.

As we've come to expect throughout his exhilarating career, he went for it, but this time he paid the price.

A wild slash with his temperamental driver went way right of the green and just carried a pond, but it plugged in the mud short of the hazard marker. He could only hack out and watch it ricochet backward off a tree. His third, from another tough lie, came up short, and he walked off with a bogey five on a hole he had pegged for a birdie.

He followed that with a stunning short bump-and-run that dropped for eagle on the par-5 14th, but another eagle try on 17, which would have given him a momentary share of the lead, slid narrowly by the cup. He knew his moment had passed.

"That's a tough tee shot [on 13]; I shouldn't have gone for it, in hindsight," he said."I should have laid up with a five-iron and [hit] a wedge in there. But I figured I needed to shoot somewhere around 31 on that back nine to at least give myself a chance. I thought 13 or 14 [under] was going to be the number, and I had to go get it."

Woods, who led through 36 holes before an erratic 75 on Saturday, said that he regained his touch with an extended practice session late on Saturday afternoon.

"I did a little work on the range but really worked on the putting green for a while and found my stroke, found some old keys and rolled it good today," Woods said. "Today was a day that could have been really low. I hit the ball really good out there. I hit two bad tee shots on the back nine. Made two bogeys, but other than that, I controlled it all day, pretty much hit it on a string."

Woods, who has played in all types of weather in three consecutive Australian summers , said gusty conditions on Saturday stood to spoil his growing confidence, but he'd managed to right the ship without much collateral damage.

"If you play in this much wind, it's very easy to start getting off, and unfortunately I did that [on Saturday]. I had to reset my game and it was fine," Woods said. "It's nice to finally be healthy again. It's been such a long time."

He said the tournament had been great preparation for this week's Presidents Cup, but only from a competitive standpoint.

"Golf course-wise, it's going to be totally different [at Royal Melbourne]. The greens will be much quicker, much firmer. I know the fairways have been slowed down, so we're going to take a look at that. It will be nice to get with the team, map out the strategy, figure out who's teeing off on what holes, what balls we're going to be using and all that kind of stuff that goes in these team events."
 
He said the knowledge he and American teammates Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson gained from the 1998 Presidents Cup at the same venue would be of limited value this time around.

"I've played quite a few times on Sandbelt courses, but I haven't played Royal since '98. Obviously there's been some changes made. The green complexes have been resurfaced, so my book is basically out the door from '98. It doesn't really do me any good."
 
Chalmers began the day two off the pace, but he quickly assumed the lead after Senden and Jason Day endured horror starts with five combined bogeys in the first four holes.

Day rallied late on the opening nine to rejoin Chalmers, one of a dynamic series of leaderboard charges and collapses featuring some of the biggest names in golf.

Tiger Woods looked to have thrown away his chances with his bogeys on 11 and 13, before the eagle on 14 and the narrow miss for another on 17 left the massive galleries in raptures.

Senden's four front-nine bogeys threatened to leave him among the also-rans, but a storming back nine came up only millimeters shy when his birdie putt on the last to force a playoff slid agonizingly by the cup.

Nick O'Hern shared the lead briefly as Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy and Nick Watney also threw out challenges.

But Chalmers stood firm amid all the drama, highlighted by a stunning tee shot to four feet on the par-three 15th that effectively sealed the win.

The victory was surprising given his world ranking was 215 and the field contained Woods and nine of the top 22.

"To win it once, you can stumble into it," Chalmers said. "But to win it twice, with this field ... the strongest we've had for a long time, to go out there and get it done over the last two days and shoot eight under for the weekend, that does something for me.

"It is very exciting. I have my name twice on the Stonehaven Cup."


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