GULLANE, Scotland — Sundays at a major once seemed to be the same old thing. Tiger Woods would don his red, pull off the unthinkable — be it a shot or a round in total — and hoist a trophy.
Now Woods’s major Sundays have a different sort of redundancy.
“I’m very pleased with the way I’m playing, there’s no doubt,” Woods said Sunday after the final round of the 142nd British Open at Muirfield. “I’m right there, and I hit a ton of good shots this week. And the only thing that I would look back on this week is I just never got the speed after the first day, because it progressively got slower.”
Thus came Woods’s repeated explanation for his 74, a 3-over-par round that left him 2 over for the tournament. He was five shots back of winner Phil Mickelson and tied for sixth. Muirfield’s greens, which began the week putting like sidewalks, softened over the course of the tournament. Woods did not adjust.
It has been a recent theme at the 17 majors since Woods last won one — playing well, a little off here or there, the course didn’t react as he expected, whatever. But the results are the same. Though Sunday will go down as his ninth top-six finish in a major since he won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, he was not a factor, bogeying the first hole to fall four shots back and not getting under par again.
So the next redundant Sunday exercise: Tiger, what do you make of this five-year span?
“I’ve won 14, and in that spell where I haven’t won since Torrey, I’ve been in there,” Woods said. “It’s not like I’ve lost my card and I’m not playing out here. So I’ve won some tournaments in that stretch, and I’ve been in probably about half the majors on the back nine on Sunday with a chance to win during that stretch. I just haven’t done it yet.”
His travails Sunday began with a three-putt from 60 feet at the first, a three-putt at the difficult par-3 fourth, a failure to birdie the par-5 fifth and a tee shot into a fairway bunker at the par-4 sixth that led to another bogey. With that, he fell from 1 under to 2 over, five back of Westwood’s lead — and going nowhere. He failed to get better than 1 over the rest of the way, and he faded into the background as Mickelson climbed the leader board.
“He posted 3” under, Woods said. “That’s a hell of a number.”
It was not one Woods could come close to reaching, and it continued a recent trend. He was one off the lead after the second round, which he completed in 2 under par. But he played the weekend 4 over. His breakdown in the seven majors since the start of the 2012 season: 8 under in the first and second rounds, 33 over on the weekend.
“I want every one. Are you kidding me?” Woods said. “I felt like I was playing well today. Actually, the whole week.”
As he said that, Mickelson was on the 18th green, hoisting the claret jug.