Every Sunday night, Golf.com conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
1. Tiger Woods started the day at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge with a two-stroke lead, but he couldn't hold off Zach Johnson, who won in extra holes when Tiger missed a putt that couldn't have been much longer than 36 inches. What do you take away from that dramatic finish?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Tiger is very mortal with the putter. He'll still have days where he's unbelievable, but he's not going to putt tremendously every time out, like he did for about a decade.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): It's the latest evidence that Zach is one of the great competitors in sports, let alone golf. But the real takeaway is Tiger's putting letting him down again. He's been on a slippery slope ever since late 2009, when he couldn't answer Y.E. Yang and then blew a key putt on the 72nd hole to hand the Barclays to Heath Slocum. At the 2011 Masters, he missed a couple shorties on the back nine on Sunday, which were grim milestones in his decline as a pressure-proof putter. Now he's blown this one, at a tourney he cares deeply about. In this final act of his career, Tiger is going to go only as far as his putter takes him. This leaves a wound.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): Who expected Tiger to miss that short putt in the playoff? Those used to be automatic. It's a sign of the times -- and not a good one for a guy looking to end that major drought.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: That Tiger's mortal. Makes him so much more interesting.
Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): My Tiger outlook doesn't change at all: he's currently the best player in the world. But (and you knew there was going to be a “but”) the post injury/hydrant Tiger experiences occasional putting woes, especially on weekends at majors. He must somehow fix that if he's ever going to bag No. 15, let alone 18 or 19.
Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): A great performance from Tiger, when we hadn't seen much of him lately, marred by a bad finish. It isn't like he shot 77 and really gagged one. He just couldn't seal the deal. At the very least, he proved why he was No. 1 on Tour (and in some minds, overall) in 2013.
Eamon Lynch, managing editor, Golf.com (@eamonlynch): That Woods is far from being the player he once was. It wasn't just that he coughed up a three-shot lead to a journeyman -- and let’s be honest, as solid a competitor as he is, Johnson is a Tour journeyman -- but how he managed to lose. Two poor approach shots on the 18th hole (in regulation and the playoff), then missing that short putt. Three years ago Graeme McDowell beat Tiger in a playoff here, but he did so with quality play. Tiger threw this one away, and he knows it.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Same thing Harrison Ford's character learns at the end of Blade Runner: the robot is more human than we knew.
2. Zach Johnson forced the playoff by holing out with a wedge from the drop area on 18 (after hitting his approach into the water). Where does Johnson rank on a list of the best American players?
SHIPNUCK: I'd put him third right now, behind Tiger and Phil. But if I needed one guy to make a par to save my life -- on any hole on any course -- I might take Zach.
SENS: Well below the current giants (Woods and Mickelson), but in the mix with the next echelon (D. Johnson, Kuchar, Stricker, Snedeker). And I'd take him over any of them to win a crucial point in the Ryder Cup.
LYNCH: He's the Justin Leonard of his era: solid, unspectacular, grabbed his major early and good for a win a year, but shy of the elite level.
RITTER: I'd probably slot him in at No. 5, behind Tiger, Phil, Kuchar and Snedeker. And on Ryder Cup Sunday, Zach is No. 1.
PASSOV: This dude is way, way underrated. He's got big-time attitude, wins his share and contends often and has been a reliable performer for many years. If there's an asterisk, it's that he seems to play his best in second-tier events, like the Texas Open and the John Deere, and while he is a consistent top-tenner at majors and near-majors, he's seldom in that final group with a chance to win at the 72nd. Fix the latter, and win a WGC-type event, where the cameras are on and all the top players are there, and Zach will crack the elite list.
GODICH: Zach is solidly in the top 10. And with his wedge play and short game, he won't be leaving anytime soon.
VAN SICKLE: Zach remains one of the most underrated players in the game, probably because he's not a big hitter and not a tremendous interview. One thing that hasn't changed is that there's always room on the Tour for a player who's magical with the wedge and the putter, and Zach is. The guy has 10 official wins, including a Masters. That's pretty impressive. Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan will have to go on a hot streak to catch him in the wins department.
BAMBERGER: He's somewhere on the list, and he couldn't be nicer, but I can't see him right now, through the fog of his charisma.