Tiger ends season without a stroke-play win

Updated: November 9, 2004, 5:18 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Retief Goosen defied the odds at every turn Sunday in the Tour Championship.

No one makes birdie on the 481-yard 16th hole, especially not from the rough. Goosen smoked a 5-iron from 195 yards that dropped in front of the flag and stopped 3 feet away.

And no one comes from four shots behind Tiger Woods in the final round to win.

"We all thought he was going to be the guy to beat," Goosen said.

In a fitting finale to the PGA Tour season, Goosen was unflappable as ever in closing with a bogey-free 64 to win the Tour Championship by four shots and become only the third player to overtake Woods in the final round.

It was the best final round by a winner in the 18-year history of the tournament.

"He did absolutely everything he needed to do -- posted a number, and hopefully it would be good enough," Woods said. "And it was."

Woods and Jay Haas helped the cause.

In a rare collapse, Woods bogeyed three of his first seven holes to give the rest of the field hope. Then, he couldn't keep up with Goosen down the stretch and closed with a 2-over 72 to finish second.

Haas, at 50 the oldest player ever in the Tour Championship, stumbled down the stretch and shot 75. He now has gone 277 events and 11 years since his last PGA Tour victory.

Goosen finished at 11-under 269 and earned $1.08 million, a sweet way to finish a year in which he won the U.S. Open for the second time, missed five weeks after injuring his ribs on a jet ski, and wound up with his first multiple-win season on the PGA Tour.

And he ends the year with a shot to remember -- a 5-iron from the rough for the only birdie Sunday at No. 16.

"It's just one of those shots that came off at the right time, and possibly it won the tournament for me," Goosen said. "I wasn't trying to hit it dead at the flag, just a touch left. But those things happen."

Losing a 54-hole lead almost never happens to Woods, although this has been a year like no other for him.

He had gone five years without blowing a 36-hole lead, then he did on consecutive weekends in May. Woods won 14 consecutive times when he had at least a share of the 54-hole lead, only to see that streak ended in a familiar place.

The last time Woods lost when leading on Sunday was at East Lake in the 2000 Tour Championship. The only other time that happened was to Ed Fiori in the 1996 Quad City Classic, Woods' third professional start.

"Very disappointing," Woods said. "I felt like I had a golden opportunity to win a tournament."

Woods ends the season with only one victory -- the Match Play Championship in late February -- to match his lowest output in his nine years on tour. He also won only once in 1998 while going through swing changes.

He now has gone 20 stroke-play tournaments without a trophy, the longest drought of his career.

"It was a very successful week as far as progressing in the right direction," Woods said. "But ultimately, it was disappointing because I lost the tournament."

Woods played in the group behind Goosen and simply couldn't keep up.

Two shots behind when he got to the 16th, Woods three-putted for bogey from about 25 feet and then hit into a fairway bunker, missed the green to the left and took another bogey on the 17th.

It was the second time this year Goosen stole the spotlight from the gallery favorite. He beat Phil Mickelson by two shots at the U.S. Open when Lefty took double bogey from the bunker on the 71st hole at Shinnecock Hills.

He heard a few pro-Tiger comments along the back nine at East Lake, but that doesn't get under skin.

As cool as he is, nothing does.

"It makes me a little bit more determined," Goosen said.

Vijay Singh failed in a bid to win for the 10th time this year, but he went out on a positive note.

Eleven shots behind, Singh made eight birdies through 15 holes until back-to-back bogeys ended his faint hope. He closed with a 65 to finish ninth -- his 18th time in the top 10 -- and was sorry to see the year end.

"I can't wait to get out there again," Singh said. "It would have been nice to get 10 wins, but I'll take nine."

The 41-year-old Fijian earned $10,905,166.

Jerry Kelly, who could face shoulder surgery next week, had a 65 to finish third. Stephen Ames (70), Mark Hensby (67) and Mike Weir (70) were another shot back.

Woods struggled from the start.

He had to hole a 15-foot par putt on the opening hole, three-putted from 30 feet on the second for bogey and dropped another shot with a three-putt from 80 feet and just off the green at No. 5. When his chip from the steep bank of a bunker popped out high and 40 feet short -- leading to his third bogey in seven holes -- Woods angrily swung at the grass and looked as if he was losing his composure.

The only thing that helped is that no one else made a big move.

While Woods never had a decent look at birdie, Haas had several of them and couldn't convert. Kelly surged into contention with six birdies on his first 11 holes. Goosen, playing in the group ahead of Woods and Haas, got into the mix quickly and took the lead by getting up-and-down from the bunker for a birdie on No. 9.

That set the stage for a dramatic back nine, with four guys contending for the title.

It all ended with a smooth 5-iron from Goosen out of the rough for a rare birdie, and a rare occasion when Woods was the last guy to walk up to the 18th green -- with the trophy already in someone else's possession.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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