Graeme McDowell was furious to finish with a double bogey six that cost him a cool $172,500 and solo third place behind Tiger Woods in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral’s Blue Monster.
Woods closed the gap on number one Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings and shortened his odds as Masters with 17th WGC win and his 76th PGA Tour title when he closed with a 71 to win by two shots from Steve Stricker on 19 under.
But McDowell, frustrated on the greens and by his inability to lay a glove on an impressive playing partner Woods over the last two rounds, hit his approach from the right rough into an unplayable lie on the rocks skirting the lake at the 18th, chipped to seven feet but never threatened with the putt.
He tapped in for a 72 that left him tied for third with Adam Scott (64), Sergio Garcia (69) and Phil Mickelson (71) on 14 under par but was left to rue an error that cost him a fistful of world ranking points and an even bigger load of cash.
“Tiger played great, you know, no disrespect to him,” said McDowell, who still banked $417,000. “He was going to be tough to catch anyway. I would have had to be on top of my game 110 percent and I would have really had to putt it extremely well to keep pressure on him.
“But that six on the last leaves an extremely sour taste in my mouth.”
Woods led by four strokes overnight from McDowell but was never under serious threat at any stage as he closed with a one under par 71 to win the 76th PGA Tour title of his career by two shots from Steve Stricker on 19 under par and pocket $1.5 million.
McDowell remains the only player to deny Woods a victory when leading by four shots or more with a round to go having claimed 2010 Chevron World Challenge in California in a play-off.
But while the Northern Irishman briefly closed the gap to three strokes when he birdied the first to Woods’ par-five and matched the winner’s birdie at the second, he was disappointed to lose his putting touch at the weekend.
“I’ve been putting great for a couple weeks now,” McDowell sid. “I feel like as these greens go faster and faster, my whole speed got a little tentative trying to drop them in, and that’s not the type of putter I am. I am kind of hit the back of the hole kind of putter.
“Like I say, my stroke got a little tentative the last couple days, literally just because of the speed of the greens. I made nothing. Disappointing. I really can’t fault the way I played teetogreen, apart from a bad chip shot yesterday on 14, I didn’t do huge amounts wrong the last couple days
“The greens got crustier and I wasn’t putting with the same authority as I was on Thursday and Friday and I guess that led to a bit of frustration on the back nine yesterday. The way Tiger was playing I was always in chase mode. I feel I was trying to hole putts to much and trying to make it happen instead of letting it flow.”
As 37-year old Woods birdied the second and fourth to get to 20 under par, McDowell’s title challenge faded when he went from a fairway bunker to greenside sand short of the fifth and failed to hole the seven footer for par.
Five adrift of Woods at the turn, the Ulsterman was overtaken by Steve Stricker, who went out in 34 and picked up shots at the 10th and 13th, eventually carding a four under 68 to claim second place on 17 under par.
McDowell’s hopes of a back nine charge ended when failed to birdie the par-five 10th and then overshot the 11th from the first cut of rough and bogeyed to slip seven shots off the pace.
He battled back with a birdie two at the 13th, where he chipped in from the back of the green and then hit a 163-yard approach to six feet at the 17th and holed the putt to get to 17 under.
Despite his error at the last, McDowell was upbeat about his game, adding: “All in all, I’m ecstatic the way I’m playing. Like I say, the way I drove it this week, my iron play, just everything really.
“The putter let me down the last couple days, but that’s been a part of my game that’s been extremely strong the last couple weeks, so no complaints.”
The day always belonged to Woods, who now has 17 World Golf Championship wins, five victories from his last 19 starts on the PGA Tour and his last 21 worldwide.
Despite a bogey at the driveable 16th and another at the 18th, where he missed the fairway, he now has a success rate of 27 percent on the US Tour with 76 wins from 283 starts.
He has now won twice this season and ominously for his rivals in six of the seven years he has won multiple times before the Masters, he has captured a major title.