ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Tiger Woods talked all week about his improved ball control – then it let him down when he needed it most.
Woods resembled the Tiger of old over the first three rounds at the Abu Dhabi Championship, stringing together three rounds below par before shooting even-par 72 in Sunday’s finale to finish in a tie for third place behind winner Robert Rock and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy.
The 117th-ranked Rock shot 70 for an overall 275 to beat McIlroy (69) by a shot. Woods was another shot back with Thomas Bjorn (68) and Graeme McDowell (68). Matteo Manassero (69) and George Coetzee (70) were another shot back.
“Today I just didn’t give myself enough looks at it,” Woods said. “Most of my putts were lag putts. I didn’t drive the ball in as many fairways as I should have … It was a day I was just a touch off the tee and consequently I couldn’t get the ball close enough.”
It marked the second consecutive time Woods hasn’t won with at least a share of the lead after 54 holes. He failed to win the Chevron World Challenge in 2010 after going into the final round with a four-shot lead over McDowell.
Woods, though, was looking for the silver lining out of his third-place finish.
“There’s plenty of big events to go, but I’m pleased at the progress I’ve made so far,” said Woods, who won the Chevron World Challenge in December to end his drought. “I just need to keep building, keep getting more consistent, and today was a day where I putted beautifully. Just didn’t give myself enough looks.”
Rock had only one victory under his belt compared to 83 for Woods worldwide, but it was Rock – battling his nerves over playing alongside one of his golfing idols – who held it together down the stretch.
“It’s pretty hard to believe that I managed to win today. Very surprised,” the Englishman said.