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Sports psychologist analyses Tiger Woods play on Sunday

Tiger Woods's inability to overhaul Angel Cabrera at the U.S. Open should not be viewed as a pattern of weakness, says Vijay Singh's former mental game coach.

Twice champion Woods had to settle for his second successive runner-up spot in golf's blue riband events after failing to win a major for the 29th time when trailing after 54 holes.

Dr. Joe Parent, who helped Fijian Singh become world number one in 2004, believes the focus should be placed instead on Woods's remarkable ability to get into contention.

"If you look at Tiger's performance on Sunday, he's hitting the ball horribly but finds a way to save par," Parent told Reuters.

"That's what separates him from the rest. How could he play so badly from tee to green and still have a chance to birdie the last hole to force a playoff?

"He hit a lot of wayward shots and had to make a number of clutch par-saving putts."

Woods, who produced an immaculate display of ball-striking to shoot a one-under-par 69 in the third round at Oakmont Country Club, failed to replicate that form on Sunday.

The game's leading player hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation on Saturday but that ratio dropped to 11 of 18 in the final round.

Bidding for his 13th major title but unable to make enough birdies on one of golf's most difficult layouts, Woods battled to a 72 and a tie for second place, one stroke behind Cabrera.

"Anyone with a historical perspective knows that golfing careers move in waves, there are peaks and troughs," Parent said.

"Keep in mind that Tiger won the final two majors of last year and he has just had two second-place finishes."

Woods clinched last year's British Open and the PGA Championship before tying for second at the Masters in April, two shots behind fellow American Zach Johnson.

Asked if Woods's inability to come from behind in the final round of majors could pose a problem, Parent replied: "It could verge into superstition if he let it.

"However, it has no basis if you compare golf to an auto race or a horse race where you have to jockey for position and pass the guy in front.

"Going into the final round at Oakmont, Tiger was two behind (third-round leader and playing partner) Aaron Baddeley and he beat him by more than two strokes. What really happened was that somebody else ahead of him (Cabrera) posted a score."

Parent felt Argentine Cabrera enjoyed a significant advantage playing four groups in front of Woods.

"Cabrera was playing great and he was under the radar," he said. "There was pressure on him until the last three holes and he bogeyed 16 and 17.

"But Cabrera then rose to the occasion with his drive on 18. It was like he summoned everything for that one moment and it cemented the championship for him."


June 19, 2007

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