In defeat, Tiger looks like a winner again

Updated: 2011-11-15 07:57

(China Daily)

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In defeat, Tiger looks like a winner again

Tiger Woods finished third in the Australian Open last weekend. The 14-time major winner, ranked No 58 in the world, shot a five-under 67 in the final round to finish at 11-under 277. [Photo/ Agencies]

Ex-world No 1 looks back in form after horrible two-year stretch, coming within a couple bad shots of title

But for a couple of poor tee shots, Tiger Woods believes he could have been celebrating the end of a two-year title drought at the Australian Open on Sunday. A week in Sydney that started with the controversy over a racist comment made about him by his former caddie Steve Williams ended with the 14-time major champion back in the hunt at the business end of a tournament.

Two years of injury and personal turmoil almost brought a halt to one of the greatest careers in golf, but there were signs at the Lakes Golf Club that Woods is finally taking the steps forward that will bring him his 96th career title.

"I felt great, it's nice to be finally healthy again, it's been such a long time," Woods, now ranked 58th in the world, said after finishing in third place on Sunday, two shots behind local winner Greg Chalmers.

The former world No 1, whose barren run has left him outside the top 50 rankings for the first time in 15 years, put himself into a winning position for the first time since the Masters last April.

But despite an eagle three at the 14th and a birdie at the 17th, he could not overhaul the 215th-ranked Chalmers, who beat compatriot John Senden by one shot with Woods a further stroke away.

The 14-time major winner, who last won at the 2009 Australian Masters, finished with a five-under 67 for a four-round total of 11-under 277.

Woods, who will play with a formidable US team against the Internationals in next week's Presidents Cup teams event at Royal Melbourne, was encouraged in only his fifth tournament since the Masters after left knee ligament and Achilles injuries.

"I had the lead at Augusta on the Sunday - that's the last time I've been in that spot, so it's been a long time," Woods said.

"Unfortunately, I haven't played a lot of tournaments in between, but it was great to be out there and I had a chance.

"I kept telling myself that I needed to post 13 or 14 under to get up there and to see what happened but unfortunately I didn't post the number I needed."

Woods, whose pulling power was again indicative of the total 67,000 crowd over the four days of the Australian Open, is relishing feeling fit again as he works on reconstructing his game.

"I felt great. It's nice to finally feel healthy again, it's been such a long time. I felt I made some nice changes yesterday," he said.

Woods led at Friday's halfway stage and looked to have finally recaptured winning form.

But he put in his worst round of the tournament with a three-over 75 on Saturday to lie six shots behind the leader heading into Sunday's final round.

"We did some work last night and I felt that I was close to finding it yesterday, but it wasn't quite there," Woods said.

"I did a little bit of work on the (driving) range, but really worked on the putting green for a while and found my stroke, found some of the keys and rolled it good today.

"It was very simple, easy fixes but if you play into this much wind it's easy to start getting off and unfortunately I did that and I had to reset my game yesterday."

The former world No 1 set himself a Sunday target of 13 or 14 under to win, but fell a couple of strokes short.

"I figured I needed to shoot at least 31 on the back nine to give myself a chance and I thought 13 or 14 was going to be the number that I had to get, but unfortunately I made a mistake at the 13th hole," he said.

Woods finished with an eagle and five birdies, but gave back two bogeys in the final round.

He finished the tournament with 18 birdies, an eagle and nine bogeys.

"Today was a day that could have been really low. I hit the ball really good, but hit two bad tee-shots on the back nine, made two bogeys, but other than that I controlled it all day," he said.

Woods is now looking forward to his seventh Presidents Cup appearance for the United States next week, with his event record standing at 18-11-1.

"Golf-course-wise it will be totally different, the (Royal Melbourne) greens will be much quicker and much firmer and I know the fairways have slowed down so I know we're going to take a look at that," he said.

"It will be nice to get with the team and map out our strategy that goes into these team events."

Reuters - AFP