Tiger Woods Fades Late, Shoots 3 Under in Arnold Palmer Invitational Final Round

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2018

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18:  Tiger Woods reacts to his putt during the final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 18, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods made a charge before fading late en route to a three-under 69 in Sunday's final round of the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational, which wasn't enough to chase down the leaders at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida.

Woods, who was in fifth place at 10 under when he finished his day, carded six birdies and three bogeys to complete his 10th straight PGA Tour round of par or better. It's the latest step in a remarkable return to form over the past month since a missed cut at the Genesis Open.

His improved play, highlighted by a second-place result in last week's Valspar Championship, has led him to emerge as a betting favorite for The Masters, the season's first major, starting April 5, per OddsShark.

Although Tiger posted three birdies over his first eight holes, he wasn't able to make much progress up the leaderboard with Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose also playing well.

It could have been an even better start for the 14-time major champion. His putt from just off the green at the fifth hit the flagstick and came to rest mere inches from the hole. Then his eagle attempt on the sixth burned the right edge.

The PGA Tour spotlighted his terrific approach at No. 6 to set up the eventual birdie:

Two of Woods' worst shots of the round came on the same hole—the ninth.

His tee shot was so far right it ended up near some concession tents. He was given a free drop, and his approach left him a reasonable up-and-down opportunity to save par. The ensuing chip ran nearly 20 feet past the hole, however, leading to his first bogey of the day.

The 42-year-old fan favorite, who's won this event eight times, bounced back with three birdies over his next four holes to climb within one shot of the lead.

Alas, Tiger's surge came to an end with a bogey on the par-five 16th.

His tee shot went out of bounds to the left. While his second drive after a penalty stroke found the fairway, the approach left him a 26-foot putt to save par, and he couldn't connect. That paired with a McIlroy birdie around the same time quickly dropped him three shots back.

Jason Sobel of ESPN.com noted the tournament-changing stretch:

After another bogey on No. 17, Tiger closed with a nice 12-foot par putt on the 18th.

Looking ahead, Woods probably won't return to action until The Masters. The Arnold Palmer Invitational has traditionally served as his final warm-up start before Augusta, including in 2013—his last healthy season—when he won at Bay Hill and finished fourth in the year's first major.

It would come as a surprise if he didn't find himself in contention for the green jacket on Sunday afternoon given his recent play. That statement alone is miraculous after his several failed comeback attempts because of consistent back problems.

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