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Sunday, December 8, 2013
Updated: December 9, 12:38 PM ET
Tiger's season ends in a stunner

ESPN.com

Talk about a wild ending to the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge. If you had Zach Johnson winning in a playoff after Tiger Woods lipped out a short par putt, head directly to Vegas. You'll make a fortune.

So what about the how around the Tiger-Zach finish? And what should Woods be spending a little extra time working on this offseason?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. Bigger surprise: Zach Johnson's holed wedge on the 72nd hole or Tiger missing the short putt to lose in the playoff?


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Zach Johnson holing the wedge shot. The ability to refocus after going in the hazard, probably thinking he had just lost, and hit a shot of that quality says something about the kind of golfer he is.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: We've become accustomed of late to Tiger missing key short putts. More surprising is the tenacity and heart that Johnson showed to hole that wedge for par to get into a playoff with Tiger.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Johnson's wedge. Nobody expects to make that shot. He was hoping to get it close, salvage a 5 in case Tiger was not able to get it up and down. Woods' putt, while certainly makeable, was not easy. And he had a poor putting day overall.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Johnson's holed wedge shot. After nearly shanking his second shot from the middle of the fairway into the water, Johnson not only gathered himself at the drop area with the tournament on the line, but he also performed beautifully to make a par. There's always some aspect of luck when it comes to holing those types of shots, but for a wedge master like Johnson, it's not that stunning.

2. Which aspect of Tiger's game should he focus on the most during the offseason?


Collins: His head. The only thing Tiger really needs to work on is his mindset going into the weekends of majors. There's nothing really wrong with any other aspect of his game.

Evans: Tiger is going to always work on his golf swing. There is probably nothing more that he enjoys doing in the world, even more than playing in competition. But he really should concentrate these next few months on the mental side, which was once the strongest aspect of his game. Doing this work is the only way he's going to end his drought in the majors.

Harig: His driving. It all starts there. Yes, Woods had some putting issues at Sherwood, but as even he said, that comes and goes. But putting the ball in play -- especially with his usually strong iron game -- is so important. It sets up everything and puts him in position to score.

Maguire: We saw it on his final competitive swing of 2013: his putting. That missed par putt in the playoff against Zach Johnson will sting for a while, but it's probably a good thing for Woods in the long run. By missing that short putt, Tiger will be reminded of what ails his game the most and that will hopefully compel him to spend more time working on it over the next month or so.

3. Fair/unfair that the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge awards world rankings points?


Collins: Unfair. There's nothing wrong with having an event that rewards the best players in the world with extra cash in the offseason, but allowing them to expand the gap the rest of the golfers have to make up to catch them seems a bit elitist.

Evans: Unfair. It's a field of 18 players, and this year many of the best players in the world were in South Africa for the Nedbank Challenge. Tiger's event is an exhibition with an easy payday, hardly the type of gathering that should have vaulted the winner, Zach Johnson, into the top 10 in the world.

Harig: Fair. It actually makes for a better offseason event. Players want to get in it, and they've got something other than gobs of money to play for. Now if you want to discuss lowering the number of available points based on a smaller field, that seems fine.

Maguire: Completely unfair. It's a classic case of the rich getting richer. With only 18 players in the field -- granted, they are 18 of the best players in the game -- how is it fair to the rest of the pros who weren't allowed to tee it up this week? Even most invitationals have more than 100 participants, so that at least evens things out a bit. In this case, it's wholly unfair.

4. Which is more difficult, beating an elite field of just 18 players or a regular, full-field PGA Tour event?


Collins: Beating a full field is much harder! The difference between the top 150 guys in the world, week in and week out, is one lucky bounce on a bad shot. That's it. So what would you rather go against, 18 guys or 144 guys? I'll take 18 any day!

Evans: It's always more difficult to beat a full field of PGA Tour players. It's the best tour in the world. There are 75 to 100 guys every week with a legitimate chance to win.

Harig: It's not easy to beat an elite field, but beating a full field is always going to be tougher, simply because the elite players are not always the ones who win. There are numerous examples of unheralded players having the week of their lives, and the odds suggest more opportunities for that in a deeper field.

Maguire: A full-field PGA Tour event simply because of the numbers. One player can always get hot in a week and post some crazy-low scores, and the more players, the more chances for that to happen. When playing in a field of 18 -- no matter how impressive the lineup -- you only have to play better than the guys around you. For example, this week there were 14 rounds of 75 or worse. Although champion Zach Johnson and runner-up Tiger Woods weren't in that category, 12 of the 18 players fell into that category at least once over four days.