By the time he finally got out of the bunker and walked off the fourth hole with a double bogey, he knew it was over.
No chance. No way. He couldn't even think about shooting a number to pressure Louis Oosthuizen, let alone win make it a three-fer here at St. Andrews.
"I knew the start I needed to get off to,'' said Woods, who closed with a 72 and finished at 3-under. "I was 2‑under through 3, and if I could somehow make 3 on 4 and somehow a birdie or an eagle on 5, that's what could have happened, that's what I felt like. But obviously that didn't happen.''
Nothing much did go right for the man who had won the last two Opens played here at St. Andrews -- by eight shots in 2000 and five in 2005. Oh, he played a solid opening round. Shot 67 and was four back. Putted the fool out of the ball too.
Then the speed disappeared.
He hit the ball better than he has in a long time. He was doing mostly all the right things off the tee and from the fairway.
But suddenly Woods was shoveling the ball along on the green -- as in 126 putts for the week. They were wandering. Circling the lip. Sliding away. Staying out.
He went with the Nike Method the first three rounds, then broke off the relationship to go back to his old Scotty Cameron, the one he used in 13 of his 14 majors.
"Well, I feel satisfaction in the sense that I drove it on a string all week and hit my irons pretty good, but other than the first day, I did not putt well at all.'' he said. "You just can't play and expect to win golf tournaments if you have nine or ten three‑putts for a week. No one can win doing that. Got to clean that up before I tee it up again.''
"It's ironic that as soon as I start driving it on a string, I miss everything,'' he said. "Maybe I should go back to spraying it all over the lot and make everything.''
Two holes pretty much summed up his final round , let alone whole week -- the fourth and seventh. Both double bogeys.
"If I got something going, I would somehow find a way to stop the momentum,'' he said. "That was either like I did today at 4 or making a three‑putt like I did yesterday, and I got it going, birdied 12, hit a good drive yesterday there, and then three‑putt two holes in a row. Basically that's kind of what I did all week.''
Why did he change putters for the final round?
" I just felt that my speed was off,'' he said, "and just going back to something where I know how it comes off.''
Actually, he said, his putting is way off. He wasn't steady over long putts all week. And, he couldn't practice putting because there was no protected area.
"I couldn't feel anchored,'' he said. "Granted, where we're going to be playing from here on in, it's not going to blow like this, so I won't have that problem.''
Tiger struggled with his putter early last year, but it came around. When asked the last time he tinkered with his putting stroke, Tiger said, simply, "Never."
Yet with the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational -- he's won that six out of the last 10 years -- and PGA Championship coming up (he lost a playoff to Y.E. Yang last August), he needs to get in a lot of reps in the next few weeks. As for putters? He declined to say which one was in or out of his bag.
And this Open? No, it doesn't take the sting out to know that Oosthuizen ran away early. Nor that he's missing another opportunity to creep closet to Jack Nicklaus' record 18 majors.
"That's just the way it goes,'' he said ."I'm not going to win all of them. I've lost a lot more than I've won.''
-- Melanie Hauser