GULLANE, Scotland -- It used to be Phil Mickelson whom the British called the "Nearly Man," the golfer who always seemed to lose the big ones. And not so long ago, it was usually Tiger Woods on the winning end of yet another major. Oh how things have changed.
Woods now is the one who can't close the deal, who is close but fades in the final round. The one who misses a few putts, misses another opportunity and, as Sunday in the 142nd British Open, listens to cheers going to someone else, in this case Mickelson, while he slides to a tie for sixth.
This was the 17th straight major Woods has entered that he has not won. He bogeyed three of his first six holes Sunday and never really sniffed at the lead during a fourth round at Muirfield in which he shot 3-over-par 74 for a four-round 286 total, five back of Mickelson, who began the round three behind Woods.
"I don't think I got too many putts to the hole today," was Woods' explanation.
Beginning the round 1 under and two shots behind leader Lee Westwood, Woods three-putted the first and fourth holes for bogeys. Another bogey at No. 6 in effect ended his chances.
It's a familiar pattern for the Woods, 37, whose last major win, his 14th overall, came at the 2008 U.S. Open.
A year ago at both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Woods was tied for the lead at the halfway mark but went in reverse. He also finished poorly a month ago in the U.S. Open at Merion.
"I'm very pleased with the way I'm playing," said Woods, who has won four PGA Tour events this year. "There's no doubt I'm right there. I hit a ton of good shots this week and the only thing that I would look back on is that I just never got the speed [of the greens] after the first day, because it got progressively slower."
When a journalist said to Tiger, "It seemed you really wanted this," Woods took umbrage.
"I want every one," he insisted. "Are you kidding me? I felt like I was really playing well today. Actually the whole week. I really hit so many good shots and really had control of my ball this week. As I said, it was just trying to get the speed, and I didn't get it."
When he was the most dominant of golfers, Woods was able to make key putts, but he couldn't do it in either Open this year.