By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Tiger Woods nearly aced a hole and made his lone eagle of the week.
The four-time Masters champion somewhat returned to form at Augusta National. It was just a few days too late to be more than an afterthought at golf’s first major.
Woods closed with a flurry, recording a 3-under 69 in the final round at the Masters. He finished 1 over for the tournament, 16 strokes behind winner Patrick Reed and in a fourway tie for 32nd.
It was far from what the 42-year-old Woods wanted, but he left the hallowed grounds feeling better about his game than he did a few days before and more encouraged than his last few trips to Augusta National.
Woods last played the event in 2015. He returned the last two years for the champions’ dinner, but didn’t get on the course. The hiatus left him feeling nostalgic during his walk to the 18th green.
“This is one of the greatest walks in all of golf,” Woods said afterward. “And I had missed it for the last couple of years. I hadn’t been able to play in it, so now I’m glad I’m competing in this tournament. And to face the challenges out there, I missed it. I really did. I missed playing out here. I missed competing against these guys. Such a great event. Best (event) in all of our sport.”
Woods started the weekend more than a dozen shots out of the lead and knew he would need something special to happen to get back in contention. It never happened. Never even came close, either.
But there were some glimpses Sunday in his traditional red shirt. Woods had two birdies and an eagle on the back and looked like he would get to even par for the event. He lamented his iron play for the fourth straight day and loathed two threeputts, including one for bogey on No. 18.
“Another loose day with the irons,” he said. “And I putted awful. It was possibly the highest score I could have shot today. All in all, a bittersweet ending.”
He still drew one of the round’s largest galleries, giving spectators a reason to get to the course long before the leaders arrived at the practice range. They simply wanted to catch a glimpse of one of golf’s greatest players.
Woods is assured of moving back into the top 100 in the world, notable only because he was at No. 1,199 just over four months ago when he returned from yet another long layoff following a fourth back surgery. “I think things are progressing,” he said. “It was a little bit disappointing I didn’t hit my irons as well as I needed to for this particular week. You miss it just a touch here it gets magnified. And I just didn’t do a good enough job this week in that regard. But overall I’m five or six tournaments into it, to be able to compete out here and to score like I did, it feels good.”
Woods plans to take some time off in April, maybe even putting the clubs in the closet for a few weeks to “kind of get away for a while.”
“The run up to this event is pretty hard and pretty grueling,” said Woods, who finished 12th, tied for second and tied for fifth in three tournaments on the Florida Swing.
“The run up to this event is pretty hard and pretty grueling,” said Woods, who finished 12th, tied for second and tied for fifth in three tournaments on the Florida Swing. “I pushed myself pretty hard to get ready. And I peaked at it four times over the course of my career, and it’s tiring.”
He can take some solace in making six birdies or better in the final round _ nearly as many as he made in the first three rounds combined.
The best one came early Sunday. Woods nearly aced the 240-yard, par-3 fourth. His tee shot landed a few feet short of bounced a couple of times and then skirted by the left edge of the hole. He was left with a left-to-right-breaking 10-footer that he dropped in the left side of the cup.
His eagle putt at the par5 15th was even better. He drained a sweeping 30footer after reaching the green in two. Those shots provided a brief snippet of what might have been at Augusta National had Woods had better control with his irons. Woods missed greens right and left, never really getting approach shots in the precise spots on treacherous greens. His errant ways left him starting a lot sooner than expected Sunday and finishing shortly after the leaders teed off.
“My swing is slightly off,” he said. “I was pleased with the way I was able to drive it, but I just could not convert with my irons. I struggled with obviously controlling the shape. Can’t control the shape. Can’t control the distance. And it was one of those weeks in that regard.”