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September 2, 2009

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Major slip-ups show Tiger is human

MUCH to his chagrin, Tiger Woods has put some suspense back into golf.

Give him the lead going into the final round of the major, and victory is no longer as certain as death, taxes and Woods wearing a red shirt on Sunday. Watch him hit a clutch shot to the 18th green, and there is no guarantee he'll make the putt.

Yang Yong-eun delivered a shocker two weeks ago at the PGA Championship when he became the first player to beat golf's best closer, rallying from two shots behind Woods for a three-shot victory at Hazeltine.

Woods rarely looked so human. And then on Sunday at Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey, he bled a little more.

He was on the cusp of contention for most of the final round at the Barclays Classic until the bell rang for the final lap. Then, Woods made a 10-foot birdie on the 14th to move closer to the lead, a 15-foot par putt on the next hole to stay there, and a deft chip-and-run to three feet for birdie on the 16th that pulled him within one shot.

Needing a birdie on the final hole to post the clubhouse lead - at least force a playoff, maybe enough to win - he drilled a six-iron from 189 yards to the back pin at the 18th and listened to those familiar roars as the ball settled seven feet from the cup.

Heath Slocum and Steve Stricker, tied for the lead, were on the 18th tee as Woods stood over his birdie putt. Even from 467 yards away, it was not difficult to figure out what was going on. If the cheers weren't enough, that red shirt is hard to miss.

"Usually he makes it," Slocum said. "Ho-hum for him."


The ball slid by on the left side of the cup, and they could hear the groans - twice. Because the large video boards and TVs in corporate chalets had about a 10-second delay, the big news reached some people later than others.

"It's kind of funny, actually," Slocum said, referring to the double dose of reaction. "But I knew that he had missed it."

That wasn't the case for Slocum. He made his putt.


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