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Mark it down: O’Hern ends Woods’ streak

Times Staff Writer

What’s the appropriate way to mark the end of Tiger Woods’ victory streak? How about with a ball mark?

It ended out here in the desert, under cloudy skies, with the wind swirling and kicking up sand, whipping pants legs like flags, blowing away Woods’ stretch of seven consecutive victories in PGA Tour events with a sudden, crashing and totally unexpected mistake Friday at the Gallery Golf Club:

Failure to read a ball mark -- the dimple left by a landing ball -- on the green.

Woods missed a four-foot putt that would have defeated Nick O’Hern on the first playoff hole in their third-round match at the Accenture Match Play Championship because his ball hit a ball mark and skidded past the hole.

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Afterward, staring at a 20-hole defeat at the hands of the Australian left-hander, Woods wasn’t upset about the end of his winning streak, the second-longest in 62 years.

What bothered him was that he simply hadn’t seen the ball mark, which he could have easily and legally repaired before stroking his putt.

“I didn’t see the ball mark,” he said. “All I had to do is just fix it and it’s in. It was a very simple thing to do. I was so enthralled with [thinking] just ‘left center, left center, left center’ and the match is over. I just didn’t pay attention.

“I was just looking at my line. I knew if I hit it inside, left center, the match is over. That’s my fault for not paying attention to detail.”

Down by four holes after the first seven, and by three at the turn, Woods had trouble with his swing all day but still pulled himself together long enough to put pressure on O’Hern.

Woods birdied the 18th hole to square the match, and could have ended it on the first playoff hole, but that little four-foot birdie putt didn’t drop. “He let me off the hook,” said O’Hern, who wasn’t watching Woods putt. “I was waiting for the sound of ball going into hole.”

And then on the second playoff hole, Woods’ second shot was one he would rue later. From 220 yards and straight downwind, he hit a three-iron off the toe of his club and missed the green at the 476-yard No. 2.

He wound up missing a 16-footer for par.

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O’Hern knocked it out of a bunker to 13 feet, made his putt for par, closed out the match and ended the longest PGA Tour victory streak since Byron Nelson won 11 in a row in 1945.

It was the first time Woods had failed to win a PGA Tour event since July, when he tied for second at the Western Open.

It marked the second time O’Hern has knocked Woods out of this tournament, the first time coming two years ago in the second round at La Costa.

“Not many people can say that, I guess,” O’Hern said. “You know, to beat him once was an amazing thrill and I’m sure he wanted to even the score today.”

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O’Hern will face Henrik Stenson, who defeated Aaron Baddeley, 4 and 3. Others quarterfinals matchups today are Justin Rose-Trevor Immelman, Chad Campbell-Stephen Ames and Geoff Ogilvy-Paul Casey.

Woods evened the match at the 15th when O’Hern missed the green and then couldn’t get the ball to stay on the green with his chip. Woods, who had reached the green in two, won the hole when O’Hern conceded his 12-foot putt.

O’Hern regained the lead when he made a nine-foot putt to birdie the par-five 17th after Woods hit his second shot into a bunker. Woods made the match all square at the 18th. He hit a 342-yard drive downwind and wound up sinking a five-foot birdie putt to send the match into extra holes.

Woods said he felt fine all day, but there was another problem.

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“My golf swing didn’t feel good,” he said. “It didn’t feel good all day. It was a struggle.”

O’Hern got the early jump, taking a lead at the 481-yard No. 4 after Woods hit his tee shot into the pond that guards the entrance to the fairway. O’Hern won the hole with a bogey and went ahead 2-up when he made a 15-foot putt to birdie the fifth.

At the 450-yard sixth, Woods really wobbled. He drove it to the right, into the desert and behind a cactus. He chopped it out, but the ball rolled under a bush and Woods one-handed it into the rough. His fourth shot went into a greenside bunker. O’Hern won the hole with another bogey and went 3-up.

Woods hit another bad drive, across a cart path and under a small bush at the par-four seventh. He tried to hit it out but sent the ball farther into the desert instead and conceded the hole and a 4-up lead to O’Hern.

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It was far from vintage Woods. After getting a first-hole birdie, he had two double bogeys and a bogey through seven holes.

Despite his swing struggles, Woods said his putting carried him. And at the end, he had a chance to win. Make a four-foot putt, he’d win again and the streak would be intact. That’s not the way it worked out, to the great surprise of many, Woods included.

“It’s not the streak,” he said. “It’s the fact that I’m disappointed I didn’t pay attention to detail, something so simple. I got so focused, like I normally do, on the line and I just ... Something so simple like that just escaped me.”

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thomas.bonk@latimes,com


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