First, the disclaimer: Yes, it's easy to read too much into a player's psyche and abilities -- good or bad -- based on one final-round performance in a PGA Tour event. And, yes, even Hall of Famers have their bad days.
All of that being said, it's reasonable to wonder if we're starting to see the beginning of the end for Vijay Singh, based on Sunday's final-round collapse at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Singh, who will be 45 on Feb. 22, squandered a three-stroke lead with three consecutive back-nine bogeys, then lost a playoff to journeyman Steve Lowery. For Singh, a three-time major champion who was ranked No. 1 in the world rankings during the 2005 season, Sunday's meltdown was shockingly out of character. Normally rock-solid when playing with a final round lead, he self-destructed enough on the back nine at Pebble Beach to force a playoff, then failed to close out a guy who was ranked No. 305 in the world at the time of the playoff. Lowery, 47, won for only the third time in his PGA Tour career and for the first time since the 2000 Southern Farm Bureau Classic.
In other words, this is far from Singh, winner of 31 PGA Tour events, getting reeled in by a stellar Sunday charge from Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. This is Singh letting one get away, as he readily admitted after the round. This loss, more than most, will have residual effects -- all of them negative -- on the confidence level of a Hall of Fame player who is battling Father Time and has been backtracking toward the pack in the world rankings for the past two seasons.
After the round, the normally stoic Singh clearly resonated despair when he said: "I'm very disappointed. I let this one slip away. I didn't think I was going to lose this. I need to go re-think and see what really went wrong."
Singh admitted surprise at watching himself hit "one bad shot after another, in three holes in succession."
Normally, I'd dismiss a Sunday collapse by Singh -- never the best of putters -- as a bad putting day and as something he'd shake off quickly. Few tour competitors are tougher mentally than Vijay.
But given the nature of this collapse -- lots of self-infliced wounds, compounded by a playoff loss to a journeyman -- I'm thinking this will haunt Singh for quite a while. I may be overreacting. But I consider this an ominous sign for a 45-year-old fighting to remain an elite player on the PGA Tour.
-- Jimmy Burch