(CNN) -- Tiger Woods has finished the golf season without a title for the first time in his career, but the world No. 2 was in buoyant mood despite losing in a playoff in the charity tournament he hosts.
The American squandered a four-shot lead before being beaten by Graeme McDowell at the Chevron World Challenge on Sunday, just over a year after the scandal about his marital infidelities blew up into a media storm.
U.S. Open champion McDowell sunk a dramatic birdie putt at the 72nd hole to force a playoff in California, then holed another at the first hole of sudden death to deny Woods an upbeat ending to a disappointing 2010.
"It was a great week, even though I didn't win," Woods told reporters. "I'm proud of today even though I lost, because I putted awful starting out. I missed three short putts, which I don't do.
"Then I lost my swing in the middle part of the round and pieced it back together again piece by piece. I was proud of that. I was very committed coming in and hit some really, really good shots coming in, which was good."
Woods lost the world No. 1 ranking to England's Lee Westwood in early November, and defeat to McDowell resigned the 14-time major champion to the first winless year since turning professional in 1996.
But there was much to cheer in his performance at Sherwood Country Club. Opening rounds of 65 and 66 saw Woods close to his sublime best and his much-discussed swing changes working to fine effect.
Despite surrendering a four-shot lead on a Sunday for the first time in his career, Woods fought back to set up a tap-in for birdie at the last to card a 73 -- only to be denied by the red-hot McDowell's 20-foot putt.
"Today, even though I lost and made countless mistakes in the middle part of the round, it said a lot for me to come back and put my swing back together again," Woods said.
"I haven't done that yet, and I haven't done it down the stretch when I needed to the most. That's exciting for me to know that it was there when I needed it."
Woods has yet to announce his tournament schedule for 2011, but a lengthy absence appears unlikely as he is keen to build momentum and win his first tournament since a self-enforced five-month absence following the revelations surrounding his private life.
"The way I'm playing right now, I would like to continue playing," Woods said. "I'm also excited about my practice sessions coming up."
McDowell moved up to a career-high seventh in the world rankings after securing his fourth title of 2010, having also won two events on the European Tour.
"Golf needs Tiger Woods and we need him back winning tournaments. It's just great to see him back playing great again this week," the Northern Irishman, runner-up to Jim Furyk at Thousand Oaks last year, told reporters.
"I thought he controlled his ball really well the last couple of days. He just kind of got on the wrong side of the 13th there and made double. Apart from that, didn't do a huge lot wrong today."
Westwood retained the top spot after winning the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, having needed to finish in the first two to guarantee that Woods could not overtake him.