Golf: Woods closes out Masters return with 3-under 69

Tiger Woods of the US hits off the second tee during final round play of the 2018 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, US on April 8, 2018.
Tiger Woods of the US hits off the second tee during final round play of the 2018 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, US on April 8, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

AUGUSTA, UNITED STATES (AFP) – Tiger Woods closed out his Masters return with a 3-under par 69 on Sunday (April 8) that included a near-ace and his first eagle of the week, but was foiled in his bid to finish under par. 

“I drove it on a string today, which was nice,” said Woods, whose closing bogey left him at 1-over 289 for the tournament. 

“It was possibly the highest score I could have shot today,” Woods said. “All in all it was a bittersweet ending.”

Woods went into the final round 4-over par and said the poor iron play he has struggled with all week doomed his effort to get to even par, or possibly under par, for the week. 

But the 42-year-old, who won the last of his 14 major titles at the 2008 US Open and won the most recent of his four Masters green jackets back in 2005, said it was a joy to be back on the course after debilitating back trouble prevented him from playing in 2016 and 2017. 

“I thoroughly missed it,” Woods said. “I missed playing major championships. 

“This was great to be back, to be able to play in a major again to have an opportunity to win the title at the beginning of the week. Obviously it didn’t pan out.”

Woods came in amid high expectations, fuelled by top-five finishes in two tuneup events.  But a first-round 73 followed by a 75 spelled the end of any hopes that Woods would contend on the weekend. 

He carded an even-par 72 on Saturday, and gave the fans who followed him in droves plenty to cheer on Sunday in his best round of the week.  Unable to capitalise on Augusta National’s four par-5 holes over the first three rounds, Woods played them in 5-under on Sunday. 

That included his eagle at the 15th, where he gently curled a downhill 30-footer into the cup.  He birdied the par-5 second, where his stellar approach left him three feet, chipped to five feet and finished off the birdie at the par-5 eighth and, after bombing a 304-yard drive up the middle at 13, gave himself another three-footer for birdie there. 

His tee shot at the par-three fourth was within a hair’s breadth of a hole-in-one, scooting nearly over the hole to leave him a nine-footer which he made for birdie. 

Closing bogey

But there were mis-steps, too.  His birdie at the second was followed with a bogey at the third. At the seventh, he muscled an impressive second shot from just off the fairway to five feet, then took three putts from there to drop another shot. 

After splitting the fairway at the ninth, Woods found the deceptive sloping front of the green with his second shot, his ball rolling back 25 yards en route to a bogey.  And he had no sooner moved to even par for the tournament with a birdie at 17 than he produced a bogey at the last. 

Woods, who said in January that the first phase of his comeback was all pointing toward Augusta, hasn’t outlined his plans for the rest of the season. 

“I’m going to take a little break for sure,” he said. “Go back to the gym, work on some things, try to get a little more fit.”