As the biggest names in the sport stumbled to ignominy in the desert here yesterday, the biggest hitter in the game stumbled to glory. Alvaro Quiros lifted himself to the brink of the world's top 20 with the biggest victory of his career.
It was a bizarre round for the 28-year-old in a bizarre conclusion to the Desert Classic. Quiros's 68 for an 11-under total – and a one-shot win over Denmark's Ander Hansen and South Africa's James Kingston – came courtesy of two eagles, one of which was a chip-in on the second and the other of which was a hole-in-one on the 11th. In between there was a treble-bogey seven on the eighth which saw his ball lodge in a tree.
"I'm fighting to be more consistent, but looking at that scorecard it's clearly impossible for me," said Quiros, winning his fifth European Tour title. The obvious highlight was the ace, and the manner of its arrival hints at his absurd talent. He hit a pitching wedge 169 yards into the cup. Quiros finished second last week in Qatar and remains a coming force. Whatever he says, if he can keep this level of consistency going he will soon set up camp in the upper echelons.
With respect to the Spaniard – and with his prodigious length he demands respect in each and every golfing corner of the globe – the focus at the beginning of this final day was squarely on the big four. The names of Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood stood out on a congested leaderboard which featured 25 players within four shots.
As it turned out, not one of them could finish in the top nine, McIlroy the highest-placed in a tie for 10th after a 74. Having opened up 65-67 this was a depressing weekend for the 21-year-old still searching for his second European Tour title, having won here two whole years ago. True, the weather conditions deteriorated, but that does not account for his downturn in form. McIlroy cut an abject figure as he trudged past the press.
As did Garcia. At least he didn't suffer another beating at the hands of his playing partner, Tiger Woods. In an almost steely atmosphere, with little or no talking, they both shot 75. Little consolation on that score, although this was only his third event since returning from a self-enforced break at the back-half of last season.
The 31-year-old showed enough here to suggest that as soon as he rediscovers his love for the game, he will re-emerge as a contender. For now, however, he faces a fight simply to gain a place in The Masters in two months' time.
Woods, meanwhile, has three tournaments before Augusta to achieve the uniformity so obviously lacking from his game. On four-under he was down in a tie for 20th and, despite this being the first time he has finished outside the top five in six visits to Dubai, he was, as ever, determined to not be too downbeat as the swing changes he makes with his coach, Sean Foley, continue to experience teething problems.
"There were a couple of positives this week and a couple of glaring examples of what I need to work on," said Woods. "It's fine when the wind is not blowing, but when it does and I have to shape and hit shots differently, all of my old 'feels' go out of the window. Yeah, it's frustrating but it's a step in the right direction. I've improved a lot [from] where I was at Torrey Pines a couple of weeks ago."
Sadly, his behaviour has not improved. There was a spitting incident on the 12th green after he had hacked his ball down the fairway. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't called for, not with so many youngsters in attendance.
Westwood, himself, must have felt like bringing up his lungs after putting himself into a fine position with two holes to go. The world No 1 was three behind on eight-under and decided to go for the 17th green with his drive. It was on line, but hit a tree between him and the hole. Somehow it stayed up there – just like Quiros's – and after being unable to identify his ball he had to return to the tee. The double-bogey was inevitable.
Then, on the 18th, to compound the desolation, Westwood was in the process of striking his approach when a fan five yards away from him decided to take a picture. "I finished in an ambulance there," he said, after tying for 15th. "But I'm gradually getting back into it and starting to feel my swing."
It was far from a disastrous week for Westwood as he actually managed to extend his lead at the top of the rankings. Martin Kaymer, his nearest challenger, could do no better than a tie for 31st.