Worst major finish for Tiger

8/21/2003 - Tiger Woods

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- It's official: Tiger Woods is majorless in 2003.

But we knew that for awhile here this week at the PGA Championship. He was 1-under through his first four holes at Oak Hill, but bogeyed his next two and didn't see red numbers again.

"I'm so happy right now that I'm done," he said right after signing his scorecard.

For the record, Woods is majorless since the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. It's his longest streak without a major title -- six -- since he went 10 tries between winning his first (the '97 Masters) and his second (the '99 PGA). It's also the first year he'll be without a major since 1998.

Yet the earth continues to spin on its axis. Ann Coulter continues to pound liberals. The Queer Eye guys continue to conquer cable.

As Woods himself says, this isn't the last time this will happen in his lifetime.

"You're going to go years where you just don't win," Woods said. "That's OK, as long as you keep trying to improve."

He sounded convincing, even if everybody knew better that to believe Woods is simply interested in "improving."

Woods' forgettable year in the majors mercifully ended with a 3-over 73 on Sunday. He finished 12-over and will record his worst-ever finish in a major championship (previously, he's never been lower than 29th).

Oak Hill got the best of him, from Thursday morning through early Sunday afternoon, when Woods walked off the 18th green more than an hour before the leaders even teed off. He bogeyed 12 different holes, and played only one -- the par-5 fourth -- under par for the week.

"It's the hardest, fairest golf course we've ever played," Woods said. He was 6-over at Carnoustie in the '99 British Open, but few consider the set-up that year on the level.

This week, Woods hit just 26 of 56 fairways -- the root of his problems. As a result, he hit just 33 of 72 greens in regulation. He made just six birdies in 72 holes, compared to 18 bogeys.

It got so bad that Sunday, he was reduced to betting with friend Mark Calcavecchia over fairways hit. Both hit eight. Woods couldn't even win his side wagers.

It's the first time 80 official PGA Tour events -- dating back to that week at Carnoustie -- that he has failed to shoot par in any round in an event. It's the first time in his career -- 155 events -- that he hasn't shot par or better at least once in four days.

His cumulative score in the majors this year was 18-over. He was 24-under last year and 15-under the year before. In 2000, when he won three times, he was a stunning 53-under.

Woods says he knows what's wrong technically. In simple terms, his hands and body aren't in sync. One's too fast, the other too slow -- and he can't get them to work in tandem as often as he could like.

"I'm just off a little," he said Saturday. "And when you're out of synch just a touch, it's hard to hit the ball as pinpoint as you need to, especially on a golf course like this."

He fought his distances all week, missing greens even with his usually deadly wedge. He looked bewildered over putts.

But he finished strong, with birdies at two of his final three holes -- including an approach to three feet on the 18th.

"Finally, I got something going and I run out of holes," he said.

Woods is headed to a place he's enjoyed great success -- Firestone Country Club, site of next week's World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational. He has three wins there -- the last three times the event has been played in Akron.

"It's awfully nice to go back to a golf course you feel comfortable on," he said.

And, as he and his advisors like to point out, 2003 isn't exactly a washout. He's won four times this year. Coming into the week, he'd won the Western Open, finished tied for fourth at the British Open and tied for second at the Buick Open in his last three starts.

He's pocketed more than $4.8 million in official money since February, when he returned to the PGA Tour after knee surgery.

Woods was in contention at The Masters through early on Sunday. He was on the leaderboard at the U.S. Open going into the weekend. He tied for fourth at the British Open.

Slump? Hardly. Just majorless.

"This year has been frustrating," he said. "I've been there with a chance heading into the weekend, except for this week. It just hasn't happened."

And, for a guy like Woods who says he only looks at the bright side, consider this: At only 0-for-his-last-6, he's still got a ways to go to catch Phil Mickelson.

David Kraft is a senior editor with ESPN.com and can be reached at david.s.kraft@espn3.com.