AUGUSTA, GA. — And to think that it all started so nicely for Tiger Woods, a drive to the middle of the fairway on the first hole. When he three-putted from the fringe for bogey moments later, it was like a flare in the middle of the road, a message from a boat in distress, a signal that this particular Sunday at the Masters wasn't going to turn out anything like many people thought.
Woods didn't win the Masters. Zach Johnson did. Woods didn't close with a 69. Johnson did.
Second place at the Masters doesn't fit Woods nearly as well as a fifth green jacket, at least in his opinion.
So after a very strange few days of cold and bogeys and unexpected leaders, it stands to reason that the winner would come out of nowhere, or in Johnson's case, Iowa.
And the player with the longest winning streak in majors is not Woods, but Johnson. The total stands at one and belongs to the new Masters champion, a baby-faced, 31-year-old chiropractor's son from Cedar Rapids, a guy who had never even cracked the top 15 in any major.
Owner of a dozen major titles, Woods has owned the majors since winning the British Open in July at Royal Liverpool and the PGA Championship in August at Medinah. But the door slammed shut on his Tiger Slam on an unusual closing day at Augusta National Golf Club.
It certainly was most un-Tiger-like.
Woods took the lead at the third hole and lost it three holes later. In fact, the closest Woods got to anything resembling a slam was when he didn't like his approach shot to the ninth green and slammed his club down.
Then his chin dropped and he stared at the ground.
Woods missed a short putt to bogey the 10th hole. He walked off the green, removed his cap, and scratched his head.
At the murderous 505-yard 11th, he knocked his drive under the trees on the right side, despite his impassioned message to the ball as it zoomed in the wrong direction.
No, that ball wasn't coming back and neither was Woods, not this time. He even snapped his four-iron right there when he whacked a tree on his swing.
The way things were going, Woods probably had a few other candidates in his bag he wouldn't have minded sacrificing.
Woods had a couple of shots at getting close, starting at the 530-yard par-five 13th, where he softly landed the ball on the green with his second shot and watched the ball roll back toward the flagstick.
He rolled in the eagle putt and was suddenly only two shots behind Johnson.
But Woods crept no closer. At the par-five 15th, going for broke, Woods' second shot ended up in the pond in front of the green, and although he managed to save par, he missed making a birdie.
As far as comebacks go, that was the extent of it. Woods was warmly greeted by applause as he walked swiftly up the 18th green with playing partner Stuart Appleby. Woods removed his cap to acknowledge the fans. He was not smiling.
It's not that difficult to understand why.
Major-championship golf is a high-wire act, the way Woods plays it. There is no safety net. You either make it safely across to the other side, accompanied by the cheers of the crowd, or you lose your balance and wobble and fall. The crowd gasps.
This isn't something Woods wants to spend too much time thinking about, but after his even-par round of 72, he has played nine consecutive rounds at the Masters without one of them in the 60s.
The statistics show that he's a notorious front-runner on the game's biggest stages. He has won 12 majors, but never once from behind, and it happened again Sunday.
The statistics also show that Woods made 15 bogeys during the tournament. The only time he has made more was in 1995, when as a 20-year-old amateur he made 18.
When it was over Sunday, he stared into the late-afternoon sunshine and offered a brief analysis. It wasn't what happened this time, he said. Where it went wrong was Thursday and Saturday, and at the very same place.
He made bogey at the 17th and 18th.
He said those mistakes cost him the tournament.
Working up any sympathy for Woods is a waste of time -- one, because he doesn't want it, and two, because he doesn't need it. This was only the third time he has been second in a major and that puts him a long way from Jack Nicklaus' record of 19 runner-up finishes.
That is a Nicklaus record Woods has no interest in breaking. The 18 majors belonging to Nicklaus, that's in Woods' sights and it's something at which he will again take aim in two months at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Maybe it will be his day again, because Sunday sure wasn't.