- REUTERS/Mike Segar
- Tiger Woods of the U.S. hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during final round play in the 2012 Masters Golf Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, April 8, 2012.
One step forward, two steps back. For Tiger Woods, the long road back to the top looks further away than ever.
Just two weeks after he won his first PGA Tour event in more than two a half years, Woods slumped to his worst-ever finish at the Masters.
The American finished his favorite tournament at five-over-par after struggling all week. He failed to break 72 in any of his four rounds and closed with a 74, completing his worst performance at Augusta National since he turned professional.
"I didn't hit the ball very good this week," he told reporters.
"What's frustrating is I know what to do, and I just don't do it. I get out there and I just don't trust it at all."
Not so long ago, the huge galleries at Augusta National would erupt in wild excitement whenever Woods hit the ball but this week there were mostly groans and winces as he messed up shot after shot.
The 36-year-old has been working hard at rebuilding his swing and looked to have it back when he won at Bay Hill two weeks ago. The bookmakers immediately installed him as the favorite to win the Masters but it was a false dawn.
"I fall back into the same old patterns again, and I just need to do more reps," he groaned.
"Thank God my short game was good this week and my putting was really good. Unfortunately they were all for pars, not for birdies.
"I played the par-5s atrociously. This is a golf course you just have to dominate the par-5s, and I did not do that at all this week."
Woods has not won a major since 2008 and has battled problems on and off the course since 2009 when the sordid details of his private life became public.
The golf world has been waiting patiently for him to resurface and continue his chase of Jack Nicklaus's record 18 majors.
He needs five more to pass Nicklaus but the frustration is starting to show. During the Masters, he slammed a club into the ground after hooking a tee shot and another time, he kicked one of his irons after hitting into a bunker.
"It's just the way it is," he said. "I'm trying to compete, and unfortunately I just didn't play well this week.
"I certainly try hard. That's one thing I'm very proud of is how hard I grind day in and day out."