CHASKA, Minn. -- Inside our collective head, there's an actuarial table that plots the plausible and the improbable, then connects the dots.
It causes us to say, "Naw, ain't gonna happen," or occasionally voices an opposite result.
|'I did everything I needed to do except for getting the ball in the hole,' Woods says. (AP)|
Then the unsinkable did the unthinkable.
"It was just a bad day at the wrong time," Woods said. "And that's the way it goes."
It's not how the Tiger beat playbook goes, that's for sure. He had more bogeys on Sunday at Hazeltine National than he'd amassed all week. He missed most of those crucial putts that he's made, for forever and a day, and shot 75. Y.E. Yang, who took everything Woods could muster and fought right back, matched the day's best score with a 2-under 70.
The way the world No. 1 viewed his first fumble at the goal line in years, he lost it and Yang won it. There was plenty of credit and blame to go around.
"It's both," Woods said.
Not since he'd held his first 54-hole lead, as a 160-pound rookie in 1996, had Woods failed to deliver the title when holding the outright advantage entering the final round, when he lost to Ed (The Grip) Fiori in Milwaukee. Woods has had a vice-grip on the titles ever since.
Sure, the realist living inside all of us knew this day would come. The bean-counters and statisticians who chart randomness and the laws of immutable probability would assert that no matter how good Woods has been when staking himself to the 54-hole lead -- he had converted 47 of 50 opportunities when in that position -- it was inevitable that he would get beaten. Or lose one
Padraig Harrington had even cracked, 24 hours earlier, that this day would come. Although he said it might take until Woods was age 60 for it to happen.
The math, and the astoundingly resilient play of Yang, caught up with him.
"I don't think anyone has gone 14 for 14 or 15 for 15," Woods said of his major-championship conversion rate when leading. "Today I played well enough to win the championship. I did not putt well enough to win the championship today. I didn't get it down on the greens, and consequently I didn't win the golf tournament."
That was what was most surprising, really. It wasn't like the indomitable became the abominable, except on the greens. Woods missed key putts from 15 feet or closer on Nos. 10, 12, 13, 15 and 17 -- all from the range where he has made his big-time bones over the years.
"I was certainly in control of the tournament for most of the day, but just didn't make anything today," he said. "I hit the ball great off the tee, hit my irons well. I did everything I needed to do except for getting the ball in the hole."
Woods needed to chip in from around 15 feet on the final hole to have any chance at winning, and he didn't come close, walking after the shot as soon as he hit it. A moment later, Yang knocked in a 10-footer for a birdie, a meaningless one in the big picture, to make the winning margin three shots.
As Yang broke out in a celebration, he forgot to retrieve the ball from the hole, drawing a smirk from Woods, who hasn't often had to watch the other guy dance on his grave in the past.
"He was doing exactly what you have to do, especially in these conditions," Woods said. "It was so blustery out there, nobody went low. I thought today if I shot under par I would win the tournament. And that would have been the number.
"But it was just a tough day. He did things he needed to do. He was driving the ball in play, hitting the ball in the correct parts of the green and giving himself looks."
As for the latter, if there is a silver lining for Woods in a season in which he was seeking to become the first player to win a major in five consecutive years, it's that he has vastly improved his record at putting himself in contention.
Early in his career, he either won majors or was hopelessly out of contention. These days, he is rarely out of the mix. Sunday marked his sixth runner-up finish at a major, and his fifth since 2005.
Sure, he wants no part of the Jack Nicklaus' record for runner-up finishes in the majors with 19, but it's never a bad thing to be in the final group, slugging it out, even on the days when you're the one heading home with a fat lip. "My career has certainly been much more consistent over the last five years," he said. "I've finished higher in major championships, if I don't win. And I give myself a lot more chances.
"That's the only way you're going to win major championships over the long haul is give yourself as many chances as you possibly can. Nobody in the history of the game has done better than Jack, finished second 19 times.
"You have to give yourself enough chances to win them and I've done that. And very proud of the changes I've made to get to this point. But unfortunately today I just didn't get it done."
Few of us saw it coming.