DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods’ 72nd and final tee shot in the CA Championship drifted way right, struck a tree and bounced perfectly into the center of the fairway.
It might have been the only break of his week.
Woods shot a final round of 4-under 68 on Sunday, a bogey-free performance that wasn’t nearly enough to win the CA Championship. He ranked below the midpoint of the field in putting, and still found a way to tie for ninth at 11-under 277.
“I’m happy with the way I played,” Woods said. “I didn’t say the way I finished.”
Woods has never finished outside the top 10 at Doral, a place where he’s won three times. He came into the week saying he was ready to win again, even though it was his first stroke-play tournament since last summer’s U.S. Open.
But his putting was a bit off all week; by Woods’ count, at least 18 putts either lipped out or just barely missed in the first three rounds. It was the only real sign of rust following his eight-month layoff after knee surgery last year, and he came into Doral having gotten only two rounds in late last month at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
He needed only 26 putts Sunday, three fewer than his average over the first three rounds.
“The good news is, I got better each and every day,” Woods said. “My ball-striking, my feel, got better each and every day.”
Woods will likely play Bay Hill in two weeks, which would probably be his final start before the Masters next month.
“I’ve been away so long, I figured it would take me a lot longer to get back,” Woods said. “But you know, this week was a big week for me.”
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN: Maybe his clothes got in the way.
Henrik Stenson’s week to remember ended with a round to forget.
Stenson, the Swede who stripped down to his boxers in a memorable scene to play an errant shot from mucky water in Thursday’s opening round, shot an 11-over 83 on Sunday, falling to 10 over for the week.
It was the worst score at Doral since 2002, when Brad Elder shot 83 in the third round.
Stenson birdied the first hole Sunday, and then went on a freefall. He made only one more birdie the rest of the day, after hitting his approach to 4 feet at the par-4 16th.
Everything else on his card was a mess.
Stenson made triple bogey at the par-4 14th, double bogey at the par-4 sixth, and eight other bogeys on the day, including one at the last. He hit only three of 14 fairways in the final round.
The last time a pro was worse at Doral was 1994, when Greg Towne shot 87 in the opening round, on the same day that Brian Kamm and Scott Ford. That was also the year Johnny Miller shot 83 in both the first and second rounds.
Such a big number is really rare at Doral: Over the last decade, the pros have failed to break 80, on average, once every 194 rounds.
AIKEN’S DAY: Thomas Aiken was planning to fly 3,800 miles from Miami to Madeira for this week’s European tour stop.
He might change that itinerary.
The South African – who has struggled just to keep his European card in the past – shot a final-round 65 on Sunday and finished tied for seventh. He earned $192,500, which means he should retain his card with ease.
And with that, he’s already hoping to see his globetrotting schedule calm down a bit.
“It’s definitely a life-changing thing,” said Aiken, who had the day’s best score. “I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet.”
Aiken played on the Nationwide Tour in 2007, then survived the European tour’s Q-School. He kept some status by finishing 131st on the Order of Merit last year, making the equivalent of $207,175.
Already this year, he’s at $282,750.
“It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders,” Aiken said.
SIXTYSOMETHINGS: Going back to 1970, only 10 players had shot four straight rounds in the 60s at Doral without winning.
It’s now happened to Jim Furyk twice.
Furyk shot 31 on the back side Sunday, capping off a round of 5-under 67 that got him into third place behind Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney at the CA Championship – but left him just short of winning at Doral for the second time.
“I gave it a good run,” Furyk said.
Furyk also had four rounds in the 60s at Doral in 2003, the year he lost to Scott Hoch in a Monday playoff.
“Front nine was frustrating, couldn’t get it going,” Furyk said. “Back nine was the exact opposite.”
Furyk’s rounds were 68-68-69-67 this week. It was the third time he’s posted four sub-70 rounds at Doral; he also did it on his way to winning in 2000.
The only other player in the field without a 70something on his card this week was Mickelson, who became the fourth Doral winner in the last four decades to manage the feat. Tiger Woods did it in 2006, Furyk in 2000 and Greg Norman in 1996.
Watney shot 70 Sunday, his worst round of the week by three shots and keeping him out of the four-in-the-60s club at Doral. Camilo Villegas was in the 60s in each of the first three rounds, before shooting 71 on Sunday. Justin Leonard also had a chance at breaking 70 four times, but also shot 71 in his final round.
Mickelson, Vijay Singh and David Toms all shot in the 60s all four days in 2005, when Tiger Woods rallied in the final round to beat Mickelson by one.
The others to do it were Scott Verplank (2000), Russ Cochran (2000), Mark McCumber (1993), Paul Azinger (1993), Sandy Lyle (1993) and Fred Couples (1992).
GEORGIA ON HIS MIND: Davis Love III will go to Bay Hill in two weeks, essentially with a spot in the Masters for his taking.
Love finished tied for 28th at Doral. He thought about playing this week at the Transitions Championship near Tampa, decided to take the week off instead to go turkey hunting, and will return at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Love came into the week at No. 50 in the world rankings; if he’s in the top 50 on that list after Bay Hill, he’ll head back to Augusta, where his streak of 70 straight major appearances ended last year.
If he falls from the top 50 after Bay Hill, Love will play in Houston the following week – needing nothing less than a win to reach the Masters.
HERE AND THERE: Pat Perez shot 1-over 73 on Sunday, but rolled in a 70-footer at the last hole for birdie and took some deep, theatrical bows, to the delight of the packed grandstand. … Billy Mayfair didn’t have a round under par all week, finishing 10 over. … Ian Poulter said he’s been playing with a cyst on his right wrist, but had it treated this week and hopes to avoid surgery.