Simple Slip Up Causes Tiger Woods to Break Winning Streak

Tiger Woods stood over a 4-foot birdie putt to win the match, just as Nick O'Hern expected.

Even when O'Hern built a 4-up lead through seven holes, he knew Woods would eventually find his swing and get back into the game. Indeed, Woods eventually caught him on the 15th hole.

And when the 35-year-old Aussie took a 1-up lead going to the final hole, he figured a birdie by Woods ranked right up there with death and taxes. Sure enough, Woods hammered a 342-yard drive, hit sand wedge to 5 feet and made the clutch putt, as always.

So when O'Hern stood off to the side of the green after making par on the first extra hole, he already was planning his next move. Remove the cap, shake hands, wish Woods well on the weekend at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

His caddie handed him a new ball for the next hole, which O'Hern thought was odd.

"Mate," he told him, "he doesn't miss these."


Woods blamed his failure to fix a ball mark for missing the birdie putt that would have ended the match and moved him one step closer to his eighth straight PGA Tour victory, one step closer to the record 11 in a row won by Byron Nelson.

Woods blamed a faulty swing — he wasn't sure where the ball was headed all day — on a 4-iron that he pulled left of the green on the 20th hole. He said the green was faster because it had been mowed since they played No. 2 in regulation — not true, said tour officials — and left his chip 15 feet short of the pin.

And when O'Hern holed a 12-foot par putt to win the match in 20 holes, Woods had no one to blame but himself.

"It hit the left side of the ball mark and kicked right," Woods said of the 4-foot birdie he missed. "All I had to do is just fix it and it's in. It was a very simple thing to do. I just didn't pay attention."

An imperfect patch of grass became the culprit for a PGA Tour record no longer perfect.

The winning streak had been subject to debate, mainly because Woods had failed to win four times during the PGA Tour streak on other tours, starting with a loss in the first round of the World Match Play Championship in England.

But when it was over, Woods took pride in it nonetheless.

"To go basically from July until now without ever finishing out of the top three, that's not bad," Woods said.

The last time he played the PGA Tour without taking home the trophy was July 9 at the Western Open, when he tied for second behind Trevor Immelman of South Africa.

Immelman was one of eight players remaining going into the weekend. He played 17 holes, halved 13 of them, but still walked away with a 2-and-1 victory over Ian Poulter of England. He'll play a quarterfinal match Saturday morning against Justin Rose, who built a big lead and coasted to a 3-and-2 victory over Charles Howell III.

O'Hern advanced to play Henrik Stenson (4 and 3 over Aaron Baddeley), who suddenly is the top seed remaining at No. 9.

In the other half of the draw, Chad Campbell outlasted David Toms for a 1-up victory and advanced to play Stephen Ames, who took advantage of three bogeys to beat Stewart Cink. Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy beat Niclas Fasth to win his ninth straight match — the only streak anyone is talking about now — and will play Paul Casey, a 2-up winner over Shaun Micheel.

The only people who suffered a bigger blow than Woods were tournament officials, left with eight players who don't exactly bring a compelling story to the weekend at The Gallery. That happens quite often in this fickle tournament.

The rarity is Woods leaving a tournament so soon.

The last time he sat out a weekend was at Winged Foot, when he missed the cut for the first time in a major. What followed was one of the best runs of his career. After being a runner-up at the Western Open, Woods won seven straight times on the PGA Tour. Even throwing in the world tours, and his tie for ninth this week, he still hasn't finished out of the top 10 in his last 13 events.

What surprised Woods was how he played.

"It was a struggle," he said. "I just didn't have control of my golf swing. I was pretty off, because obviously, I've been playing pretty well. It was disappointing."

The guy who breezed through his first two matches put together a stretch that looked like it belonged to someone struggling to keep his card. After missing a 4-foot par putt on No. 3, he found the water on No. 4 for a double bogey, badly missed with a wedge into a par 5 and lost to a birdie, took another double bogey from the desert and didn't even look for his ball after hitting from the base of a bush over the green on No. 7.

Just like that, he was down four holes.

"I knew he was going to make a run at me on the back nine," O'Hern said. "The back nine was pretty stomach-churning."

Woods birdied three straight holes to start the back nine, then squared the match with a conceded birdie on the 15th when O'Hern missed the green.

What might have cost Woods more than his short miss in overtime came on the par-5 17th. He hit a 3-iron off the toe, and instead of bouncing onto the green for a look at eagle, he found a bunker 70 yards short and made par.

Ultimately, his chances ended with a 4-foot birdie putt that veered right of the cup.

"We all do that," O'Hern said. "We're human."

It took the end of a streak to make Woods look that way again.