BETHESDA, Md. – An uneven performance on the front nine in Sunday's final round ensured Tiger Woods would be awarding – not accepting – the inaugural AT&T National championship trophy.
Woods, who entered the day seven strokes off the lead in a tie for eighth place at 2-under par, double bogeyed the 602-yard, par-5 9th hole to fall to 3 over for the round. He finished the round at even par and tied for sixth place at 2 under for the tournament.
“It basically put me out of the tournament,” Woods said of the double bogey. “I had to go out there and play a picture perfect back nine – and hope.”
His early downturn transformed his round from competitive to celebratory, as the massive gallery that followed him in the extreme heat at Congressional Country Club showered him with appreciation for bringing the tournament to the area. He and champion K.J. Choi were the only golfers who received standing ovations coming up the 18th fairway.
“I didn't get a 'W,' so that was frustrating in that sense,” Woods said. “But this tournament, in general, has been a bigger success than anyone could have imagined.”
Woods parred the first three holes Sunday but bogeyed the par-4 4th after his approach from the fairway landed well short of the green.
His frustration then began to show when he dropped to even with a bogey at the 174-yard, par-3 7th.
Woods hit his tee shot in the rough to the left of the green and bladed his second shot over the green and into a bunker. The normally meticulous Woods then stormed over to his ball and hurriedly swiped it onto the green without a practice swing. Still, he sank the 15-foot bogey putt.
The momentum from that putt carried over to the par-4 8th, which he birdied despite landing his tee shot in the left rough.
But at No. 9, he drove the ball in the rough and hit his third shot in the rough to the left of the green. His ensuing pitch rolled off the green, sealing his fate.
Woods finished his round, though, with consecutive birdies and a smile. He was overwhelmingly pleased with the attendance for the weekend, which surpassed 139,000. The galleries – his, in particular – were vocal, energetic and knowledgeable.
“It was young, it was vivacious, it was special,” Woods said. “To see that many kids out, that was just like how it was back when I first turned pro.”
APPLEBY FALTERS: Third-round leader Stuart Appleby watched his two-stroke lead quickly disappear as he dropped six strokes on his first seven holes. A double bogey on No. 2 and bogeys on Nos. 4-7 led to a 5-over 40 on the front nine en route to a final-round 76. He finished 3 under in a tie for third place.
Appleby snapped at reporters after signing his scorecard, pausing only to autograph a ball for a volunteer and ask a marshall which golf cart would take him to the clubhouse.
The double bogey at the 230-yard, par-3 2nd hole began Appleby's undoing. His tee shot landed 10 yards left of the cart path near the green, and his second shot reached the green but settled 37 feet away from the hole. He three-putted from there, including a miss from inside 4 feet.
STRICKER'S DROUGHT CONTINUES: Steve Stricker will have to wait at least another week to end his winless streak.
Stricker, who hasn't won since 2001, held the tournament lead by himself early on the back nine but faltered with bogeys at Nos. 11, 14 and 15 to finish in second place at 6 under, three strokes behind Choi.
“It was a great experience, again, but not really the results I was looking for,” Stricker said. “But I can gain some confidence from this event and, hopefully, one of these times finish it off.”
Stricker placed in the top 10 for the sixth time this year. He shot a 3-under 32 on the front nine but fired a 38 on the back.
“It was tough putting,” he said. “These poa annua greens were marked up. They were very difficult.”