Tiger Woods ready for scheduled breather after lamenting his Masters play

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods is ready to exhale.

After weeks of hype and a return to the Masters Tournament after three years that were relatively disappointing, the 14-time major champion is looking forward to a break before resetting again.

Woods (1 over) finished tied for 32nd at Augusta National and moved to 88th in the world rankings.

"Generally after this tournament, I put away the clubs for a while,'' said Woods, who shot his best score of the week in his final round Sunday, a 3-under-par 69. "I usually take three to four weeks off, through my entire career, and usually the clubs are put in the closet, and I just kind of get away for a while.

"The run-up to this event is pretty hard and pretty grueling. I pushed myself pretty hard to get ready. And I peaked at it four times [in his victories] over the course of my career, and it's tiring.''

Woods couldn't quite put it all together in his sixth tournament of the year in his comeback from spinal fusion surgery.

His play on the par-5s plagued him for the first three rounds, then he played them in 5-under-par Sunday, making his first eagle of the year. But he missed short birdie putts at the first and seventh holes and three-putted the 18th for a bogey.

All week, Woods lamented his iron play, which kept him from having more manageable birdie opportunities.

"It was surprising for him,'' caddie Joe LaCava said. "I think it's by far the strength of his game. From 150 [yards] in, it was not very good, which isn't like him. So the first word that comes to mind is disappointing as a whole, knowing he's playing halfway decent coming in.

"But I tell people the same thing: It's six tournaments. Let's not get carried away. He was certainly trending in the right direction, so to finish 35th or whatever he finished ... it sucks, disappointing for sure.''

As LaCava added: "The good news is he's, like, money with the driving, but he can't hit the green with a lob wedge. It's beyond weird. It's not like him.''

Woods mostly chalked his performance up to the sport of golf itself, a game that constantly perplexes. He said Sunday's 69 was the highest score he could have shot. He missed five putts from inside 6 feet and had two three-putts. He hit 15 of 18 greens but took 32 putts.

The four-time Masters champion said in the big picture, he was glad to be back competing again at a place that he missed, though LaCava said that was not the vibe he got.

"He was here for one reason,'' LaCava said. "It was never like, 'It feels great to be back at Augusta National.' I heard more 'I sucks' than I heard 'It's great to be back.' But today was one round, he played a little better, and he ended up on a positive note.''

Woods will move into the top 100 in the world for the first time in three years. He'll also move up a few spots from 44th in the FedEx Cup standings. He'll plot his next move -- mostly likely to be at the Wells Fargo Championship in just over three weeks, followed by the Players Championship.

"I think things are progressing,'' Woods said. "And it was a little bit disappointing I didn't hit my irons as well as I needed to for this particular week. You miss it just a touch here, it gets magnified. And I just didn't do a good enough job this week in that regard. But overall, I'm six tournaments into it, to be able to compete out here and to score like I did, it feels good.''