Tiger Woods was making his patented Sunday charge.
Spurred by birdies on the first two holes, Woods was within one stroke of the lead about halfway through Sunday's final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
But rather than write another chapter in his legendary story, Tiger slogged his way to a back-nine, 8-over 43 and finished in a share of 22nd place.
Just a bad day? Or a sign of things to come? Jason Sobel and Bob Harig trade e-mails on the subject in this week's edition of Alternate Shot.
Sobel: So Vijay Singh won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday. Ho-hum. I mean, he's a great story -- 31 career wins, only player with multiple titles this season, yada, yada, yada -- but let's get right to what everyone's talking about: Tiger Woods was a first-round co-leader, was within a stroke of the lead halfway through Sunday's final round ... and finished tied for 22nd place?! Who is this guy and what did he do with the real Tiger Woods?
Harig: Whoever he was, he shot 43 on the back nine Sunday. That is hard to fathom. Sure, the greats have their rough outings, but they don't play the equivalent of bogey golf. Over the last 10 holes, Woods lost 10 shots to Singh, who beat him by 11. You'd be hard-pressed to find a time Tiger had three holes of double bogey or worse on the same nine as he did during the final round.
Sobel: The real troubling thing for Tiger is that it wasn't just one thing that went wrong. The double-bogey on the 11th hole was caused by an off-target drive and ensuing three-putt. The double on 17 came after a fanned tee shot on the par-3 hole. And the triple-bogey on 18 occurred when his approach landed in the water hazard, well short of the green. I can't remember a time when we've seen him go from so good to so, well, bad in such a short span.
Harig: I want to believe that the calamities at the end were due to go-for-broke, nothing-to-lose shots. The pins at the 17th and 18th holes were in precarious positions and Tiger was not playing to the middle of the green at either place. And you know Tiger doesn't much care about protecting a top-10, and he had no chance to win at that point. But he was still very much in the tournament when he bogeyed the 11th and failed to birdie the par-5 12th. He also did not birdie the par-5 sixth, a hole that Rocco Mediate eagled and Singh birdied. It was a strange tournament for Tiger.
Sobel: That it was, but I think we have to give Tiger a free pass. I mean, the guy is the greatest closer of this -- or maybe any -- generation, so it's tough to criticize him too much. And it sounds weird to say that this coming week will be a test, but coming off his disappointing finish at Bay Hill, the CA Championship at Doral will be Tiger's last chance to get his game in gear prior to the Masters. You know he's itching to get things back to normal.
Harig: No question, he is allowed to mess up, just like every other player on tour does -- and far more often than Tiger. It was just one of those weird deals at what is really a strange place for him. Yes, he won the tournament four years in a row, but since then has not finished better than 20th in four tries. All or nothing, seemingly. He shot 64 on Thursday and 76 on Sunday. It doesn't make sense. Better to write it off than to make too much out of it, although I agree that he will want to get some positive vibes going again this week.
Sobel: So what happens this week? Will his Sunday struggles continue or will Tiger revert to form at Doral? I say the latter. He's obviously got a great track record at the Blue Monster, so that helps. And you know Woods and Hank Haney are putting in a few extra hours on the practice range in advance of the tournament. As we've seen time and again, the moment we start questioning Tiger's swing is the moment he proves everybody wrong. Again. After all, he's not that far from being on top of his game, as we saw last Thursday.
Harig: Jason, it's scary, but we agree again. Bay Hill was a blip. Tiger's been playing too well for too long for us to read any more into it than that. It was strange, no doubt. But as you said, he's played great at Doral, shooting 44 under the last two years. It's the perfect place for him to get things back together. The Masters is now just two weeks from Thursday and his focus will be on that and peaking at the right time.
Sobel: If nothing else, it makes the PGA Tour -- and Tiger, in particular -- more interesting to talk about when Woods isn't dominating tournaments. When the dude's winning, really there's nothing much to say except for the perfunctory discussion about how great he is. But when his swing goes sour and his putting stroke is off, all of a sudden the debate is on.
Harig: I think what it does is put in perspective just how remarkable it is that he wins so much. Golf is not a game of perfect. Far from it. You could be hitting the ball great and missing putts. You could be making everything, but doing it to save par. Weather, a cranky back, an indifferent golf course … all of it factors into how well a guy plays. And Tiger manages to overcome all of it, most of the time. Nobody else gets the same kind of scrutiny, either.