All around him on Sunday at the Masters, golfers were charging deep into red numbers. Tiger Woods didn’t yet have the game to do the same.
Woods shot his first under-par round at Augusta National since 2015 with a 3-under 69, which included an eagle at the par-5 15th. But with a 1-over finish — 16 shots behind winner Patrick Reed — he didn’t come close to contending for a fifth green jacket and first since 2005.
“I felt I hit it well enough off the tee to do some things, but I hit my irons awful for the week,” Woods said. “I did not putt well today. I three-putted seven and three-putted 18. I didn’t put it together when I needed to do for the entire 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 five or six tournaments into it, to be able to compete out here and to score like I did, it feels good.”
Woods, 42, was grateful to be back at Augusta after he’d missed the previous two years while he recovered from back surgery.
“To face the challenges out there, I missed it,” he said. “I missed competing against these guys. Such a great event. Best-run event in all of our sport.”
Woods, who has played five tournaments in 2018, didn’t indicate when he would compete next, though he should be a lock to compete in the Players Championship on May 10-13.
Hoffman makes ace
Whether Charley Hoffman ever wins a Masters or not, he’s got one swing at Augusta National he’ll always remember.
As the leaders were finishing up the front nine, the 41-year-old San Diegan caused a roar when he made a hole in one at the par-3 16th.
Hoffman’s 6-iron shot from 184 landed just over the left bunker, spun to the right and rolled in.
A wild celebration ensued. Hoffman chest-bumped his caddie and slapped hands with his playing partner, Tony Finau, who injured his ankle Wednesday after his hole in one.
Admitting he pulled the shot, Hoffman said, “I saw it bounce and I’m, like, whoa, that’s got a chance. I think my caddie yelled, ‘Go in,’ and I saw the crowd’s hands go up and the thing fell.”
The ace was the 29th in Masters history and the 20th at the 16th, the most of any hole.
It’s the third year in a row that aces at 16 have come on a Sunday. Matt Kuchar made one last year, and there were three in 2016, by Louis Oosthuizen, Davis Love III and Shane Lowry.
Hoffman, who was tied for the fourth after a first-round 69, shot 67 and finished in a tie for 12th at 6 under. He shot a 78 last year on Sunday while contending.
“Just 352 days ago I wasn’t very happy walking off this golf course, and today I am,” Hoffman said. “It’s just amazing how much a year makes.”
Casey’s incredible run
With four birdies and an eagle in a five-hole stretch on the back nine, Paul Casey made a bid at the lowest score in Masters history.
After a birdie at the 15th, the Englishman needed to par in to shoot 9-under 63 and tie Nick Price (1986) and Greg Norman (1996) for the all-time low. One birdie would have given him a 62 and the lowest score in majors history.
But he bogeyed the 17th and 18th holes to finish with a 65 and tied for 15th at 5 over.
“That was fun, wasn’t it?” Casey said. “Birdie, birdie, eagle on Amen Corner. I’m going to remember that for a long time.”
Casey began the day tied for 30th and shot 74-75 in the first two rounds.
“It’s cool,” he said. “It shows you anything can happen in golf.”
Mickelson’s ‘big misses’
One shot. Phil Mickelson insisted on Sunday that he was pleased with one swing his entire week.
“Seven iron on 17, which went exactly as I had wanted to,” Mickelson said.
The San Diegan made birdie on the hole from five feet on Sunday, part of his best round — a 5-under 67.
It was hardly a consolation for the 47-year-old, who entered the tournament with high expectations but finished a disappointing 2 over.
“I’ve been very consistent this year, especially off the tee, and then last week and this week I’ve hit some really big misses, which I haven’t been doing this year,” Mickelson said. “… I’ll have to get that worked out.”
As wide as Augusta’s fairways are, Mickelson found only half of them, while the field hit 65%.
Mickelson hadn’t closed with a score as low as 67 since he won with a fourth-round 67 in 2010. It was a vastly different feeling this time as he teed off four hours, 10 minutes before the final group.
“It’s difficult,” Mickelson said, “because you know what you’re missing out on and you know what special things happen on the back nine, how fun it is to be part of it, to be in the mix.”
Finau made six straight birdies on the back nine (12th through 17th) and shot 66. At seven under, he tied for 10th.
Webb Simpson became the fourth player in Masters history to make back-to-back eagles. He holed out an iron from 166 yards on the par-four seventh and chipped in from 20 yards at the eighth. He scored 67 to finish at 2 under.