Woods, playing his second major since a five-month leave of absence from the game prompted by a late November car crash and revelations about his marital infidelities, had launched his bid for a 15th major from five strokes back of the overnight lead.
The world number one, who had won the 2000 US Open on its last visit to Pebble Beach by a majors record 15 strokes, had shot a five-under-par 66 on Saturday to reach one under and put 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson in his sights.
On Sunday, however, Woods could not maintain the brilliance of the previous night, when he had scorched through the back nine with five birdies.
A missed short par putt at the first set the tone and despite flashes of brilliance, including an excellent second shot at the third to save par from thick rough in a wooded hollow and a bunker shot at 14 to within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie, six bogeys consigned Woods to a 75 and a three-over-par finish in a tie for fourth with his great rival Phil Mickelson.
Asked what positives he could take from his final round, Woods told NBC Television: "Not a whole lot.
"I was telling (caddie) Steve (Williams) we made three mental mistakes today. The only thing it cost us was the chance to win the US Open."
Woods, who had parted company with swing coach Hank Haney following the Masters, did admit that his overall play at Pebble Beach this week had given him plenty of encouragement for the future.
"I feel like I can play now. I can I get a feel for my game, the shape of my shots, what I'm working on, and the two major championships I finished I had a chance to win both of them. So it's not too bad.
"I feel like I put some pieces together this week. It's a process. It's a long process, but I've put some of it together, and I hit some shots this week that I haven't hit in a long time."
Masters champion Mickelson, a five-time US Open runner-up, was able to look on the bright side of his tie for fourth, a one-birdie, three-bogey round giving him a second consecutive 73 having shot a 66 on Friday.
"I wanted to win, I'm glad that it wasn't a second," Mickelson joked.
"Obviously I wanted to win. For me just to have that opportunity throughout the whole round - and I knew early on again when Dustin (triple-bogeyed) the second hole it was a wide open tournament - I was within three shots of the lead and having that opportunity to win is what's so fun.
"It's what's so exciting as a professional golfer, and I knew the entire round pretty much that if I could make some birdies or shoot under par, that I might be able to do it."