Now Tiger knows how Jack felt

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There had to be some agony that accompanied all the glory. For all of his success in the major championships, Tiger Woods never really felt the gut-wrenching despair of defeat. Not until Sunday.

Sure, there had been disappointment. Such as the second-place finish to Rich Beem at the 2002 PGA Championship. Or the runner-up finish to Michael Campbell at last summer's U.S. Open.

But neither of those losses felt as bad as Woods' tie for third at The Masters.

Now he knows how Jack Nicklaus must have felt.

Nicklaus won 18 majors, but finished runner-up 19 times. Some of those defeats were heartbreaking.

Woods had never felt that pain. He has won all 10 of his majors from in front, never coming from behind to win. Often, Woods either contends and wins, or is not that close.

This time was different.

Woods finished 3 strokes behind Phil Mickelson, then had to put the green jacket on his rival, all the while wondering how it wasn't him being fitted for a fifth.

"The way I hit it … it could have been a different story," Woods said afterward. "I absolutely putted so bad and couldn't fix it. I didn't know what was going on."

He 3-putted three times. He missed two eagle putts from inside of 10 feet. He missed three birdie putts -- skimming the edge each time -- on the front nine that would have tied him with Mickelson.

He 3-putted the sixth. He failed to birdie the eighth. He 3-putted the 11th. Missed a short birdie putt at the 12th, short eagle putts at the 13th and 15th.

For the tournament, Woods had six 3-putt greens to just one for Mickelson. Sure, everybody can second-guess, but had Woods putted better …

"I feel like breaking this putter in eight pieces," Woods said a few moments after his caddie, Steve Williams, had tossed the Scotty Cameron model to Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, telling him to "break the [expletive] thing."

Woods took 33 putts in 70 strokes during the final round. He had made three straight bogeys near the end of the third round on Sunday morning, but a birdie at the 18th put him just 2 strokes behind Mickelson starting the final round.

But after a birdie at the second hole, Woods could never get the putt to drop that would have put him atop the leaderboard with Mickelson. And it was frustrating.

"I hit it great today," said Woods, who shot 70 to finish at 4-under 284. "As good as I hit it today as is as bad as I putted. I felt so much control on my ball from tee to green. It's the best I've hit it in years.

"In the final round of a major, it's exactly how you want to hit it, but I absolutely lost it out there on the greens. … I putted atrociously today. Once I got on the green I was a spazz. This is the most 3-putts I've ever had here."

Woods said he would be returning to California to be with his ailing father, Earl, rest and "take care of business."

"I know he was watching and was probably angry about the way I putted," Woods said. "He probably knows exactly what I did wrong."

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.