SAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods walked slowly up the fairway to the 18th green Sunday at Torrey Pines, waving his cap to salute the gallery as it cheered and whistled and clapped.
You have to say that as far as victory marches go, this wasn't one of them.
This time, the reception Woods received seemed more out of respect than anything else, sort of like a curtain call at the end of a play, just polite appreciation for a great performance that had ended.
It was great theater, all right. Woods, golf's leading man, did not win his seventh consecutive PGA Tour event, although he did succeed in giving Phil Mickelson a severe case of discomfort.
Woods' six-tournament winning streak, the longest in 52 years, came to an end on a gray afternoon along the Southern California coast, where Mickelson turned in a final-round 70 and held for a four-shot victory over Woods and Shigeki Maruyama in the Buick Invitational.
Woods finished with a 68, but he was halted five short of Byron Nelson's record of 11 consecutive victories, so he placed his own streak into historical perspective.
''It means I came in second,'' Woods said. ''Second all-time.''
Well, it was a nice streak while it lasted, which was five and a half months.
''I think I've done all right,'' Woods said.
All right? Just all right? As a consolation prize, Woods earned a $264,000 check and became the leading money winner in the history of professional golf, with a total of $12,821,128 in less than four years.
There is a certain elliptical quality to the fact that Mickelson ended Woods' victory streak -- it was Woods who defeated Mickelson and won the NEC Invitational to begin the streak last August.
Mickelson's 14th career PGA Tour victory was his first since 1998. Woods had won 10 times between Mickelson victories.
Even so, Mickelson said he was not vindicated by ending the winning streak of younger player who had passed him by.
''I wasn't out to end the streak, I was just trying to win the golf tournament,'' Mickelson said. ''I'm not trying to be the bad guy.''
No, Mickelson was simply trying to hang on and get in the locker room with the trophy before Woods could wake up and correct what was wrong his swing and somehow swipe that big, glass thing right from under his visor.
It certainly wasn't easy for Mickelson to do. He started the fourth round six shots ahead of Woods and was seven shots ahead with 12 to go, but by the time he made the turn, it was down to four.
Mickelson was 3 under through six, but then double bogeyed No. 7.
Woods was making birdies, but he was doing it the hard way by missing fairways and having to rely on his short game and putting. He knew he was in trouble as he was preparing for the round.
''I went out on the golf course and it went downhill from there,'' he said.
Whatever problems Woods was having with his swing, he nevertheless climbed closer to Mickelson.
Having his own problems, Mickelson made another double bogey at No. 11 when he flubbed a chip. The lead was down to two. Soon, it was down to zero. Woods birdied No. 12 when he sent an 8-iron to six feet and made the putt, then caught up when he chipped to eight feet and made it.
''Sure I wanted to beat him,'' Mickelson said. ''I wasn't going to hand it to him, even if it looked like I was.''
As it turned out, the tie was brief. Mickelson quickly moved ahead and changed the entire complexion of the tournament at the 13th hole. It started badly enough, a drive into the left rough. But Mickelson recovered nicely, hacking out to the fairway, where he was 114 yards from the flagstick. He chose a nine-iron and sent the golf ball to a resting place only three feet from the hole.
Mickelson made the putt, took the lead and kept it, this time.
Woods had gone 44 consecutive holes without a bogey, then made two in the next three holes. Even pars were adventures, which is what happened at No. 15 when his hand flew off the club at the tee.
The problem was that he had no idea what was going to happen every time he swung the golf club. This is not a good sign if you are trying to win a golf tournament, Woods said.
For that reason, Woods wasn't too upset about his streak coming to an end. It sort of comes with the territory when you have no idea what's happening when you draw back the club.
Woods described one swing problem, his 9-iron on 14 that led to a bogey: ''Stuck, handle high, high right, nowhere.''
At least he had the location down, which is something he did not have on the first hole when he bounced his golf ball off a chair on his drive.
''Called bank,'' Woods joked.
''To be honest with you, to even be under par, as good as I was hitting it today, it was kind of a miracle,'' he said.
Woods was directionally challenged from the tee. He hit a chair, the gallery, grandstands, a cart path, you name it.
''Just to be able to hang in there and scratch and claw and give it everything I had, that's not bad,'' he said. ''I just wasn't hitting it good enough to give myself a viable chance down the stretch and it finally caught up with me.''
Maruyama, whose smile is as engaging as his golf game, closed with a 72 to equal Woods at 14-under 274. Davis Love III finished with a 70 and earned fourth place alone at 13-under 275. Fred Couples, Kirk Triplett and Kevin Sutherland tied for fifth.
For the winner, the bounty of victory was obvious. In addition to his $540,000 winner's check -- the largest of his career, there were additional trappings of success. Mickelson accepted the trophy, made a victory speech and posed for pictures afterward.
Woods had a different experience for the first time since his streak began Aug. 29 with a one-shot victory over Mickelson at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. He talked about how it felt to lose. He doesn't like it.
And a sense of relief that the burden of carrying a historic streak is over?
''I wish I could say that,'' Woods said. ''But I don't know if you can be too excited about finishing second.''
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