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Where has Tiger's finishing kick gone?

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Tiger Woods didn't just lose a golf tournament on a chilly Sunday afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula.

On the PGA Tour, where there can only be one winner each week, losing is part of life.

What happened to Woods at Pebble Beach was something altogether different; something far more damaging.

After three impressive rounds, the scene was set for him to end his almost 30-month winless drought on the PGA Tour.

Instead, he got stage fright, stalling early, then stumbling with five bogeys in the middle of his round.

He looked more like a man nervously in search of his first PGA Tour win than his 72nd.

Only four players in the field shot higher scores than Woods' 75 on Sunday, and none of them finished in the top 40.

Worse, Woods had to watch as the spotlight was stolen by his longtime rival, Phil Mickelson.

Playing in the same group, Woods was embarrassed by Mickelson, who was at his stratospheric best in shooting an 8-under-par 64 to win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the fourth time.

Woods started the day two strokes ahead of Mickelson -- and lost to him by nine.

To put that feat in context, Greg Norman suffered the same 11-shot swing when he authored what's generally considered the worst final-round collapse in golf at the 1996 Masters against Nick Faldo.

Woods' capitulation -- on the heels of the loss to journeyman Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago -- inevitably will lead to bigger questions.

Once the greatest winner in golf, he now looks lost in final rounds.

The red shirt's still there -- though it's far less intimidating when paired with white sneakers -- but what has happened to what's inside?

He used to make birdies on Sundays; now it's become the day to make excuses.

"I couldn't get the putter to swing," he said after his round. "I missed a ton of short putts today."

But putting's part of the game.

And isn't Woods' legend built on making the big putts?

He certainly putted the eyes out of this place at the 2000 US Open.

On Sunday, though, he missed five putts from inside 5 feet, including a 2 1/2-footer for birdie on the last.

Mickelson, meanwhile, didn't miss a putt from inside 13 feet.

"He played really good today," Woods said of his adversary.

"He was hitting it flush, and his wedge game was right on the money."

Sunday's victory also was significant in tilting the balance of power between Woods and Mickelson, who with win No. 40 moved into a tie for ninth on the PGA Tour's career victory list, surpassing Tom Watson.

Woods used to have Lefty's number when they played -- "I got spanked pretty good," Mickelson recalled -- but Sunday represented the fifth straight time when they've played together in the final round that the left-hander has prevailed.

"He seems to bring out the best in me and, the last four or five years, I've played some of my best golf playing with him and I really enjoy it," Mickelson said.

"I know that his level of play is so much greater when he's playing his best than anybody else's, that it just forces me to focus on my game more intently and hit more precise shots."

Mickelson, who began the season sluggishly despite thinking his game was in good shape, was surprisingly buoyant about Woods' future.

Perhaps it's because winners can afford to be gracious.

"Watching him play today, it's going to change in one week," he said of Woods' fortunes.

"You could see it's such a night-and-day difference. He never hooked a shot.

"He used to hook -- you were waiting for it -- and now he's just striping it right at his target with a tiny little fade just like he used to do. And his iron play looked extremely sharp.

"I know the score wasn't what he wanted, and I know he didn't putt the way he wanted to, but you could tell that he's really close. And all it takes is one week."

Actually, all it takes is one Sunday, a day Tiger Woods once owned.