AUGUSTA, Ga. For Tiger Woods, the long, strange journey through golf's majors since his 2009 crash into a fire hydrant continues. And it is getting odder all the time.
Woods has played in 11 majors in his post-marital-scandal period, and in that time he has thrown away chances to win his 15th major with wayward tee shots, poor wedge play and especially with sloppy putting. He also has lost because he wasn't healthy, was distracted, was reworking his swing or breaking in a new caddie or a new coach.
But at this year's Masters, he may have given away his opportunity for a fifth green jacket with what he told reporters or by the drop of a ball that was one to three feet off.
That leaves him with no one to blame but himself, yet it is a bizarre turn of events for a player never known for his post-round news conference verbosity or for imprecision with basic golf rules.
"We always lose more tournaments than we win," Woods said Sunday. "You can ask 'what if' after every tournament that we lose. I guess this is another one."
But in this case, the "what if" will linger perhaps for a peculiar reason an unintentional self-imposed penalty. Asked about that, Woods smiled.
"It's a funny game," he said. "Things happen."
To recount some of those things, Woods finished at 5 under, four shots behind eventual winner Adam Scott, who beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff.
Woods could have been in the playoff with a 66 Sunday. He missed multiple makable putts for birdie. He had chances to lower his score Saturday as well and squandered them.
Not insignificantly, three other golfers scored lower.
But it is also inescapable that the tournament turned when Woods' exceedingly accurate third shot at the 15th hole Friday clanked off the flagstick and bounced into the pond in front of the green. A birdie would have put him in the lead.
He ended up making bogey. Then came the rules bungle heard round the golf world and a two-stroke penalty. That 87-yard wedge shot might have been a four-stroke turnaround.
It is all speculative, but there is nothing uncertain about the circumstances that led to the two-stroke penalty. If Woods had not mentioned to reporters after his round that he wanted to back up two yards on his second attempt to put a ball on the 15th green Friday, there would have been no penalty.
Rules officials determined there was no violation on Woods' drop. And Woods did not realize his gaffe.
Adding to the drama, it also now appears Woods may have dropped his ball very near where he played his first shot from anyway. An Augusta Chronicle photographer took pictures of both approach shots while standing in the same position alongside the green. In light of several divot marks just behind and near Woods, it appeared Woods may have been standing in the same place both times even if he thought he had backed up. It is up to the player to call a violation on himself, and if he thinks he backed up two yards, then his word is enough for the penalty to be assessed.
On Sunday, Woods acknowledged he had seen the photos.
"I saw them," he said. "Maybe not as much as I thought. But it was certainly not as close as the rule says."
He was asked if the flagstick shot was the most frustrating outcome he had experienced in a major.
"I've had a few," he said. "But that's certainly up there."
And with an unforced smile, Woods turned around and walked toward the Augusta National clubhouse.