By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Defending champion Tiger Woods on Sunday had his highest single-hole score as a professional, hitting three balls into the water for an ignominious 10 at the famous par-three 12th hole in the final round at the Masters.
It was his highest score on the hole by four shots. In 89 previous rounds at Augusta National, he had never had worse than triple-bogey at the 12th.
In fact Woods had never had worse than a triple-bogey on any hole at Augusta.
His problems started when his tee shot, an eight-iron from 155 yards, landed short of the green and rolled back into the tributary of Rae's Creek that has gobbled up so many balls over the years.
"I committed to the wrong wind. When I stepped out there it switched to howling off the left," he said.
"I didn't commit to the wind and also got ahead of it and pushed it too ... and that just started the problem.
"From there I hit a lot more shots and had a lot more experiences there in Rae's Creek."
After taking a penalty stroke following his tee shot, he pitched his third shot onto the green, but the soft putting surface repelled it and his ball again rolled back into the water.
Now playing five, he made sure of avoiding the water, only to end up in the back bunker, from where he knifed his sixth shot all the way across the green and back in the water.
He then pitched his eighth shot to the back of the green and two-putted to finally end his misery.
AVOIDS WEISKOPF RECORD
He avoided the record for the highest ever score on the 12th, an honour that belongs to Tom Weiskopf, who ran up a 12 during the 1980 Masters.
The way 15-times major winner Woods played the hole was a far cry from last year, when he safely found the putting surface to seize control of the tournament while four of his nearest rivals ran into trouble.
After his woeful 12th hole on Sunday, Woods fought back in typical style with five birdies in the next six holes for a round of 76.
He finished at one-under-par 287.
Woods' previous highest score as a professional was a nine at the third hole in the 1997 Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village in Ohio.
"I've hit a few too many shots than I wanted to today, and I will not have the chairman be putting the Green Jacket on me. I'll be passing it on," Woods said, referring to the tradition of the winner receiving the jacket from the previous year's champion.
Woods did not contend in any of the three majors played this year. He previously tied for 37th at the PGA Championship and missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
The British Open was cancelled due to the coronavirus.
Woods, 44, needs to win three more majors to tie with Jack Nicklaus for the all-time record.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)