Rory McIlroy is clearly back in form despite producing a loose performance with the driver and the green-reading skills of Stevie Wonder in the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
A closing 74, fruit of some wayward tee shots and virtually zero success on the greens, left him tied for ninth and four strokes behind playing partner Stephen Gallacher at the Emirates.
McIlroy was so flummoxed by the firm, shiny greens that he called on his caddie JP Fitzgerald for help. He had more success after that but he could just as easily have asked his fiancée Caroline Wozniacki, who was once again very close at hand.
"Anything that could go wrong did - okay, I hit a couple of loose drives, but I didn't get away with them, stuff like that," said McIlroy, who had 30 putts and took home €35,483.
"The golf course played so much differently today, the greens were a lot firmer. I payed pretty solid on the front nine, apart from the par three, but the two bogeys on the par-fives on the back nine were not what I was looking for.
"It was tougher to get the ball close because the green were firmer and on the rare occasions I got the ball close, I didn't make any putts, so it was one of those days.
"I didn't get a couple of putts to go. I was struggling to read them for some reason, so I got JP to read them for me on the back nine and holed a couple more.
"When the greens get this firm they change colour a little bit and it was very hard to see. Everything I read was straight even though it wasn't - I just couldn't see any movement at all."
Walking inside the ropes, the tennis playing Dane was so close to her beau at times that they were able to have a chat as he waited for the green to clear at the 354-yard 17th, where there was a $2.5m cash prize for a hole in one.
On Saturday, McIlroy's tee shot ran past the pin and over the green, prompting him to joke in a radio interview: "Yeah — could've paid for a wedding."
Alas, there was no wedding cash on Sunday either, though observers are now beginning to wonder aloud about Wozniacki's enthusiasm for watching her future husband at such close quarters.
Knowing McIlroy's disdain for any comment on his business or personal life, this is likely to go down like the proverbial lead balloon at Chez Wozzilrory.
Just two strokes behind Gallacher going into the final round, McIlroy failed to take advantage of a horrific start by the Scot, who went out in 39 but came back in 33 with brave birdies at the 16th and 17th to shoot 72 win by one from Emiiiano Grillo on 16 under.
Gallacher has now given himself a realistic chance of challenging for a Ryder Cup spot but McIlroy will certainly regret his finish having held a share of the lead with seven holes to go.
Bogeys by Gallacher at the first two holes put McIlroy ahead, but that lead proved short-lived as he registered four bogeys in seven holes from the short seventh, where his tee shot came up short in the water.
Having played the previous 13 par fives in 12 under par, he made a bogey six the 10th (poor drive, chip out) and followed a nice two at the 11th with a bogeys at the 12th (poor chip) and another bogey six at the 13th (pulled tee shot into the desert).
While he's still not close to the stellar form of 2012, McIlroy is trending in the right direction with one win and two runner up finishes among his five Top-10s in his last eight starts worldwide.
Tournament winner Gallacher certainly has no doubts after witnessing McIlroy's opening 63 at first hand.
"His first round was unbelievable," Gallacher said on Sunday. "I shot 66 and it felt like 75. His ball flight is just phenomenal.
"I've never played with anyone who flights it as good as him. I think he'll soon be contending with Tiger for the number one spot. He's a class player."
Woods birdied the last three holes for a 71 to finish tied 41st (€10,372) but having missed the 54-hole cut in his first start of the season in San Diego last week, he has officially made the worst start of his career by failing to finish in the top-20 in his first two events.
"I think this is the worst I have ever seen Woods technically," said Sky Sports commentator Ewen Murray.
Woods planned to watch the Superbowl in Dubai before heading to India on Monday to play an exhibition at Delhi Golf Club courtesy of Hero MotoCorp.
He is believed to have been paid more than $2m to play in Dubai and another $2m-pus to play in India. And he certainly didn't sound despondent about his game.
"Unfortunately I turned it around too late. I drove it great today, I piped it all day," said Woods, who hit nine fairways, but also had 30 putts. "My iron game was not as sharp as I'd like and I didn't make anything. I had seven lip-outs. That's quite a few lip-outs.
"I had a quick, easy fix to my grip the other day and from then I drove it great. I still need work out of this rye grass. A little different technique, but it's something to fix."
As for the other Irish in Dubai, Damien McGrane finished four shots better than Woods, carding a 71 to finish tied for 20th on 10 under (€ 21,168).
Michael Hoey had a bogey free 69 to finish tied 54th on four under (€5,376).