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Surprise too as Woods fails to claim Open

Tiger Woods's failure to clinch his ninth career major at the Open on Sunday was almost as surprising as the shock one-shot victory achieved by American rookie Ben Curtis.

Going into the final round at Royal St George's, the stage was perfectly set for the world number one to end a run of four major championships without a win.

He was one of nine players separated by just three shots at the top of the leaderboard, trailing third-round leader Thomas Bjorn of Denmark by two.

Woods also had added incentive, as he had never before come from behind to win a major championship.

The 27-year-old American has triumphed in seven majors since his maiden victory at the 1997 U.S. Masters, but in all eight of them he has either led or shared the lead going into the last day.

"I've won eight a different way, so maybe I can win this way," he said with confidence before Sunday's final round. "It's still not a bad percentage, though."

As it happened, though, the anticipated Woods last-day charge failed to materialise.

Frustrated by unlucky bounces, fresh sea breezes and a putter that never got hot for him, he faded to a closing 71, and a share of fourth place with Davis Love III at one-over 285.

Woods, for much of this year, has been equally frustrated at having to deal with media suggestions of a 'Tiger slump' despite arriving at Sandwich with four titles from his 11 tournaments this year.

The subject is bound to be raised over the coming days with the game's top player not having won a major since last year's U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

Furthermore, the world number one had entered last year's British Open on course for a unique calendar grand slam of all four majors, but gale force winds and rain at Muirfield blew that dream away as he ballooned to a third-round 81.

Close observers of the game will probably argue that eighteen times major champion Jack Nicklaus, in his prime, would not have wasted a golden chance to add another to his tally had he faced a similar situation to Woods on Sunday.

"You can look at that in just about every major championship," Woods said after failing to apply the pressure on rookie Curtis down the stretch.

"It's going to work out for somebody, and Ben's win is pretty remarkable because generally you don't find a person playing in his first Open championship being not only able to contend but to win in the end.

"It just goes to show that anybody who is playing well can win any tournament in the world."

Woods, who completed scores of 73, 72, 69 and 71 for the week, added that the measure of good fortune so desperately needed for a player to win a major did not come his way.

"You've got to have things go your way in order to win," he said. "The times that I have won I've had some great breaks go my way. You need to have those breaks.

"This week, I got my share of good breaks, and also got my share of really bad ones.

"The putts I needed to keep the momentum going or to start some momentum just didn't fall. But that's golf."

The one positive Woods can draw on following his Sandwich experience is that he managed to play his way into contention going into the last day, having failed to do so in the first two majors of the year.

He tied for 15th at the U.S. Masters in April and shared 20th spot at last month's U.S. Open.

But Woods, who sets his stall by major victories, knows he needs to end his current drought soon, if only to halt ongoing media talk of a 'Tiger slump'.


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