The pros torch Augusta, but Tiger just can’t win

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa shot a final round 66, the best of the day, and birdied the last four holes on Sunday at Augusta National to capture his first Masters by two shots. It was an incredible Masters.

However, Augusta National, since it was Tiger-proofed years ago to 7,435 feet, no longer humbles the world’s best players. Thirty-seven players in the field of 99 were under par, including six players that were -10 or better.

I’ve never seen that many players take it so low at Augusta. Jeff Ogilvy made five straight birdies on the back nine Sunday. He and Tiger Woods both shot 67 and tied for fourth.
What did this year’s 75th Masters teach us? That world golf is stronger than ever? That Phil Mickelson can’t win back-to-back Masters? That Tiger Woods can’t putt anymore?

Tiger — even when he’s not crashing his black Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant on his own property after his wife smashes the back window with a 3 iron — is still winless on the PGA tour. No wins anywhere in 17 months. Make no mistake about it: The world of golf has passed him by.

Since Woods became the first athlete to crack the $1 billion career earnings mark last year, he can’t win anymore. Apparently 72 PGA wins is enough. Woods still has 14 Major championships, the best since Jack Nicklaus, who still has 18. Woods is now 35 years old; his new swing looks better, but Sunday he missed another golden opportunity.

“Absolutely,” said Woods when asked if he could have won it. “I should have easily shot 3-4 under on the back nine. I was right there in the thick of it.” He sure was — his 31 on the front nine Sunday was spectacular. Twice Woods tied for the lead, having started the final round in ninth place seven shots back of Masters leader Rory McElroy,

Woods had six three-putt greens over the 72-hole tournament. He never used to make mistakes like that, but that was another Tiger. He has not been the same in Majors since blowing the 2009 PGA Championship to Y.E. Yang here in Minnesota at the Hazeltine National. Remember, he had a two-shot lead in the final round.

Woods is now zero for his last 11 Majors, the longest drought of his illustrious career. He has slipped all the way to number seven in the world rankings. He had been number one since 1997; Mickelson is ahead of him now for the first time as low American in the world rankings.

This Tiger has doubts in his game like small cracks you can barely see, and golf is the type of game in which any flaws you have in your game or in your character are exposed for all to see. When a guy makes four straight birdies on the last four holes to shoot 66 and -14 under par, he obviously deserved to win.

Woods, to his credit, gave us all a thrill on Sunday: He shot 67 and lost. He has us watching and hoping, but in the end he has lost something. Nobody fears Tiger anymore.


Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.