Journeyman halts Tiger in Abu Dhabi

Tiger eschewed his normal starting spot to the season -- Torrey Pines -- to play in the Middle East. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, Jan. 26-29, 2012, 70-69-66-72 (T-3)
Instead of starting the season at comfortable Torrey Pines -- where he has won seven times -- Tiger Woods elected to make his 2012 debut in the Middle East, where he got an appearance fee as well as some formidable competition in the top four in the world: Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer.

But it was Woods who garnered most of the headlines. His third-round 66 gave him a share of the 54-hole lead with England's Robert Rock, who ended up victorious when Woods could do no better than a final-round 72. Woods finished 2 back, with McIlroy slipping into second place.

A day after hitting 16 greens in regulation, Woods did well to shoot even par, scrambling his way around the Abu Dhabi Golf Club and falling to unheralded Rock, who won for just the second time in his career. It was just the ninth time in 61 tries worldwide that Woods had failed to convert a 54-hole lead into victory.

"I didn't hit the ball as well as I would like to,'' he said. "I putted beautifully the last three days. Didn't putt as well the first day. Today, I was just a touch off. I was hitting the ball through the fairways. I was hitting the ball a little farther than I thought I would.

"I'm pleased with the progress I've made so far. Basically, since Australia, my stroke-play events have been pretty good. I just need to keep building, keep getting more consistent. Today was a day where I had a chance, and Robert just played real solid all day.''

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.