Gullane, Scotland • Tiger Woods kept staring incredulously at the ball — when it veered off in odd directions, when it stopped rolling far from the cup.
It was as though Woods had suddenly forgotten how to read a putt.
Woods’ latest chance to end the longest drought of his career slipped away Sunday at the British Open, where Phil Mickelson won the claret jug with one of the greatest closing rounds in major championship history.
For Woods, it was another mystifying showing by a guy who used to produce that sort of magic fairly regularly. He once was considered a lock to break Jack Nicklaus’ record in golf’s biggest events, yet the number of titles remains stuck at 14 — four shy of the Golden Bear and right where it’s been since Woods’ last significant triumph at the 2008 U.S. Open.
He started the day just two strokes behind 54-hole leader Lee Westwood, but it fell apart pretty quickly. An ugly three-putt at No. 1 was the start of his misery, and Woods was at 3 over for the round by the time he walked off the sixth green.
Though he remained on the fringe of contention all day, he never got to the top of the board. Woods staggered to the finish with a 74, thanks to a dismal performance with his putter. Woods needed 33 swipes with the short stick to get around the course. Only six of the 84 players used it more.
"I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds," Woods said. "They were much slower today, much softer. I don’t think I got too many putts to the hole."
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