Tiger Woods came to the 16th tee at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 5-under par round going, a 496-yard par-5 ahead of him and the leaders within striking distance just after 5 p.m. on Sunday when everything went wrong.
On statistically the easiest hole on the course, Woods was noncommittal with his tee shot and pulled it over the boundary fence on the left side of the hole, forcing a re-tee that eventually led to his first of two consecutive bogies that would take him out of the running for the title.
I was seriously considering the new TaylorMade Twist until Tiger just proved it can go way out of bounds. It never pays to kill it pic.twitter.com/IB8NOsbxkZ
— Kevin Brinkley (@kevinbrinkley) March 18, 2018
In a tie for third place, one shot behind the leaders, but three or four holes ahead of them, Woods needed to put the pressure on. He had three options racing through his head, but he couldn’t come down on any of them.
“I was caught,” Woods said. “I didn’t decide what I was going to do. If I hit driver I got to fit it, I got to cut it in there. And I was, in the back of my mind, I said, why don’t you just bomb it over the top. And it was like a 315, 320 carry. And I bailed out and hit a bad shot and that’s on me for not committing.”
Woods went on to say that playing downwind, he could have just as easily hit a good 3-wood and had less than 200 yards into the hole setting up a birdie or even eagle opportunity.
Instead, Woods’ chase for his ninth win at Bay Hill went begging. Another bogey at the par-3 17th hole all but sealed the deal for Woods as the leaders behind him — Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau went on birdie barrage to close out the event.
All things being equal in the end — which they are not — Woods would have had to shoot an 11-under par 61 to tie McIlroy’s 18-under mark. Had Tiger kept his ball in play and posted a number, there’s no telling what could have happened down the stretch.
For Woods, it’s just another step in the process. His next start will be in three weeks at Augusta National where he will attempt to win his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship.
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