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Opinion: Tiger Woods fails to qualify for Tour Championship as season ends with whimper  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

MEDINAH, Ill. — It wasn’t supposed to end this way. 

Not after slipping the green jacket over his red shirt on Masters Sunday in April. Not after he looked so powerful, so confident, so healthy among the stately Georgia pines as he won his 15th major and first in 11 years. Not after expectations reached a zenith, especially the renewed countdown to catching Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 majors.

No, Tiger Woods’ year wasn’t supposed to end with a whimper.

But Sunday at the soggy No. 3 course at Medinah Country Club, where he won two of his 15 majors back in the day, Woods bid adieu to a season that turned forgettable after he pulled off one of the most remarkable victories, not only in golf, but in all of sport.

In the final round of the BMW Championship, Woods wasn’t bothered by discomfort from his fused spine but nonetheless ached as his play left him wanting. In need of a bagful of birdies, Woods struggled to make pars en route to an ordinary, even-par 72 that left him well behind the leaders and sent him home to Florida instead of to the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta as one of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings.

“It’s disappointing,” Woods said of not being able to defend his title next week in the Tour Championship. It was at East Lake last year where he walked toward the green of the 72nd hole trailed by thousands of people in the fairway, a swarm that nearly swallowed him up. The win was the 80th of his career, first since 2013, and capped his remarkable return to the game last season. 

“Last year culminated in a pretty special moment for me and it would have been nice to go back there, but I’ll be watching the guys on TV,” he said.

This season culminated at the BMW Championship, which was just his sixth start since winning the Masters. With missed cuts in the PGA Championship and the British Open and a WD from last week’s Northern Trust after the first round, Woods played just 17 rounds in four months and was never in contention as the rest of the season was marked by back pain and long absences from the game.

But his disappointment and pain are soothed by the memory of winning in April at Augusta National.

“Very special to win my 15th major and get my fifth jacket,” Woods said when asked to assess his season. “Those are special moments. The rest of the tournaments I didn’t really play as well as I wanted to but at the end of the day, I’m the one with the green jacket.”

That’s what Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie, told his boss as they walked off the green of the 18th hole. It’s the reason LaCava graded the season an A-, for the victory at Augusta National outshined all the dark days.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with the second half of the season,” LaCava said. “Tiger would tell you the same thing. Unfortunately, and I know his short game wasn’t good, but we’re about a week from contending again and possibly winning because his swing was coming around, and he was hitting the shots he wants to hit. He was as healthy this week as I’ve seen him in a while.

“I know his health is going to be a mystery going forward because backs are funny. But I saw more energy this week and I see him physically better so I’m looking forward to next year. By the time we come around to next year he’ll be refocused, and he’ll get ready and get after it.”

Before 2020 arrives, Woods will captain the USA in the Presidents Cup in December in Australia and is scheduled to play the ZoZo Championship in Japan the third week of October. He’ll host the Hero World Challenge the week before heading to the land Down Under.

He’s looking forward to all three, for after Sunday’s round, Woods certainly didn’t sound like a man who thinks his Masters triumph was his swan song. The competitive fire still resides inside, and he’ll make sure he’ll do everything he can to defend his Masters title next year.

“Right now, the most important thing is fitness for sure,” Woods said. “Keep going the way I’m going right now because I need to get a little bit stronger in certain body parts. Activate different areas. I need to get those parts stronger for sure and then start building up my game for Japan.”

And hopefully, his back willing, beyond.

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