Tiger Woods’s winless streak will stretch into 2011 after he blew a four-shot final-round lead for the first time as a professional golfer and lost the Chevron World Challenge in a playoff.
Graeme McDowell upstaged tournament host Woods by making a birdie putt of more than 20 feet at the 18th hole to tie and then again in the playoff to claim the $1.2 million top prize at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California.
McDowell’s win caps a season in which he won the U.S. Open and clinched Europe’s Ryder Cup victory. For Woods, the playoff loss ends a winless year in which he lost his No. 1 ranking and was divorced and dumped by sponsors including AT&T Inc. and Accenture Plc after admitting to multiple extramarital affairs.
“Those are probably two of the greatest putts I’ve made,” McDowell said during a news conference. “To play the weekend alongside Tiger, it’s a pretty special feeling to go out there four back and do the job.”
Woods had never previously lost after entering the final day of a tournament with a lead of at least three shots. He hasn’t won since the Australian Masters 13 months ago and last claimed a title in the U.S. at the BMW Championship in September 2009. Woods said he’s encouraged heading into the off-season.
“I’ve played well in stretches and now the stretches are lasting longer,” Woods said. “Whether it’s the beginning or end I don’t know, but I’m just really excited about this off-season. I haven’t been that way in a while.”
Denied Fifth Win
Woods was denied a fifth win at the tournament, an unofficial event hosted by his charitable foundation that featured a field of 18 players selected from the top 50 in the world rankings.
Woods shot a 1-over-par 73 yesterday -- following rounds of 65, 66 and 68 -- to slip into a tie with McDowell at 16-under. Woods bogeyed two of his first three holes in the final round and then lost his lead with a double-bogey at the par-5 13th hole. McDowell made birdie on the hole for a three-shot swing, then had bogeys on the 14th and 17th holes.
On the 444-yard closing hole, Woods yelled and pumped his fists as his approach shot stopped within three feet of the flag. While McDowell pulled his second shot about 25 feet left of the hole, he drained the putt to force a playoff.
Playing the 18th again as the first extra hole, McDowell sunk a birdie putt from almost the same distance. When Woods’s birdie attempt from about 15 feet slipped past the cup, he smiled before removing his hat and congratulating McDowell.
The only times Woods entered the final round of a PGA Tour event and lost were to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship and to Ed Fiori as a rookie at the 1996 Quad City Classic.
“I’m proud of today even though I lost, because I putted awful starting out,” Woods said. “I missed three short putts, which I don’t do. Then I lost my swing in the middle part of the round, and pieced it back together again piece by piece. I was proud of that.”
Woods, whose record 281-week stay atop the world rankings ended last month when England’s Lee Westwood replaced him as No. 1, said he’ll continue to work on his swing with coach Sean Foley and isn’t sure when he’ll play next.
“I’ll probably play more tournaments (in 2011) than I did this year,” Woods said, eliciting laughter at his news conference. “When, I don’t know.”
Woods played in 12 PGA Tour events this year and didn’t make his season debut until the Masters Tournament in April. He took almost five months off after revelations of marital infidelity, which led to his divorce in August.
Woods and Elin Nordegren share custody of their two children and Woods said last week that family obligations will probably help determine his 2011 playing schedule. McDowell said he expects the wins to come for Woods, who has won 14 major titles and ranks third all-time with 71 PGA Tour wins.
“He used to appear invincible,” McDowell said. “But there’s something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return as the golf clubs start doing the talking again.”