Tiger's Sunday surge comes up short

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The golf was the kind we had taken for granted, the kind we have come to expect.

Tiger Woods made an exhilarating charge Sunday at the Masters, one that stalled on the back nine and was ultimately too little.

Woods shot 5-under-par 67 and twice held a share of the final-round lead but ultimately could not keep it going, missing several key putts. He finished tied for fourth, just like in 2010, 4 shots back of eventual champion Charl Schwartzel.

"Absolutely," Woods said when asked afterward if he left a few shots on the Augusta National course. "I should have easily shot 3 or 4 under on the back nine. I was right there in the thick of it."

Woods birdied the second and third holes but seemed to stall with a bogey at the fourth. At that time, he still was well behind third-round leader Rory McIlroy.

But as the Northern Irishman began his gradual decline, Woods kept moving up. He birdied the sixth and seventh holes, and when he knocked it on the green at the par-5 eighth and drained an 8-foot eagle putt, he was right in the tournament.

Woods made an amazing par save at the ninth and was still at 10 under par when he hit his tee shot in the middle of the green at the par-3 12th. But from there, he three-putted -- missing a 3-footer for par. It was his sixth three-putt of the week.

And it would prove to be huge, especially when Woods could not make birdie at the par-5 13th, where he knocked his second shot over the green. At the 14th, he missed a 10-footer for birdie.

Then at the par-5 15th, Woods nailed a 6-iron approach from 207 yards, stopping it 6 feet from the hole. An eagle would have given him the outright lead, but he pushed the putt right and settled for birdie.

It turned out to be his only birdie on the back nine.

"I hit it good all day," Woods said about just the second tournament this year in which he played his way into Sunday contention. "I hit it good all weekend.

"I got off to a nice start, turned in 31. The back nine I should have capitalized more."

Woods, 35, has now gone 17 months since his last victory at the 2009 Australian Masters.

Since returning after a self-imposed five-month break to deal with personal issues last year, Woods' best finishes were a tie for fourth at last year's Masters and a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open.

The outcome at the 75th Masters was his best of 2010, just his second top-10 finish.

Woods has now gone 11 major championships without a victory -- the longest major-less streak of his career-- and remains at 14, four behind the record of Jack Nicklaus.

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