In the end, there was only one person who had any chance to catch Tiger Woods.
And that person was Steve Stricker, who shot a 4-under-par 68 and made up three strokes on Woods on the final day of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Good effort. Just not good enough.
Woods played methodically and maybe even cautiously on the 18th hole but managed a 1-under 71 to win on the soon-to-be demolished TPC Blue Monster course at Trump Doral Golf Club and Resort.
Despite finishing second, Stricker accepted his fate and reasoned, “It was a good day.”
All week, much was made of some putting tips given to Woods by Stricker, who is generally recognized on Tour as a superb putter.
On Sunday, Stricker, who had finished his round and Woods was still playing No. 18, was asked about that lesson and whether it might cost him the tournament.
“Who knows, he might have putted just as good without my help,” Stricker said. “But you know, he’s happy, he feels really good about what he’s doing on the greens, and so that’s a good thing even though he’s going to clip me by a couple of shots.”
Stricker, 46, even took some satisfaction in whatever help he gave Woods.
“It’s like I’ve said all week, it’s kind of the nature of our game,” Stricker said. “Older players have done it with me, and I’m now one of those older players, and when somebody asks me for help, I tend to give it to them.
“Tiger and I have always talked about putting, and he had me look at him again this week, and some things clicked with him. He was really excited about what he was doing out there. But he’s got a lot of talent.”
Stricker revealed he and Woods have texted back and forth. “About feel with little wedge shots, putting … we’ve touched base when we haven’t been on Tour together. ...
“You know, he’s the best player in the world. I could pick his brain all day long. He likes what I do putting and some of my wedge play, so he kind of picks my brain on that.”
Stricker was the closest finisher to Woods, but there were also some notable names and efforts just down the leaderboard.
• Rory McIlroy: For the first time in a long while, McIlroy had a smile on his face that wasn’t going to dissolve in a few seconds. The world’s No. 1 player had his best round, a 7-under 65, in recent weeks that vaulted him into a tie for eighth place.
McIlroy had been battling a swing change and a switch in clubs lately, and also came under heavy criticism for dropping out of the Honda Classic because of a toothache.
“I was pretty down about my game coming into this week,” McIlroy said, “but a few days like I’ve played, it does my confidence a world of good.”
• Phil Mickelson: A strong start with birdies on the first two holes went for naught as Mickelson could not build any more momentum to challenge Woods. He finished with a 1-under 71 and in a four-way tie for third place with Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell.
“I’ve got work to do on the greens,” Mickelson said.
• Garcia: A year ago, Garcia unceremoniously took a 12 on a par-4 at Doral, the 10th-worst single-hole score in PGA Tour history. This year was much better. Garcia shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to round out a strong tournament.
“It was a good week,” Garcia said. “The second round [a 72] put me behind the 8-ball, but the other three rounds were pretty good.”