Tiger grabs money lead with WGC triumph
WOODSTOCK: Tiger Woods once again proved that for him, a lead heading into the last round is all but a guarantee of victory.
Woods made it 30 wins out of 32 times he has taken the lead into the final round on the PGA Tour when he secured a comfortable two-stroke victory Sunday at the $6 million American Express Championship. Woods had the luxury of three bogeys over the final five holes as he cruised home in even-par 72 for a six-under 274 total at the demanding Capital City course. Australia’s Stuart Appleby (68), Tim Herron (71) and Fiji’s Vijay Singh (72) shared second place at 276. “I didn’t have to shoot a low number today,” Woods said. “After nine holes, I figured even par for the day would win, probably by one, but it ended up being more than that.”
It was his fifth win of the year, seventh in 13 elite World Golf Championships events and his 39th on the PGA Tour, matching the number of career victories by Tom Watson and Gene Sarazen. And the amazing thing is that these statistics seem ho-hum for a 27-year-old who in seven years as a pro has completely changed the face of golf by dominating it in a manner no one thought possible just a few years ago.
Woods, who picked up 1.05 million dollars to jump to the top of the money list with 6,278,746, dedicated the win to caddie Steve Williams, who notched his 100th victory. Woods wanted to reach the century mark for Williams - who worked previously for Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd among others - at a major, but this came against a field that included the world’s top 50 players. Woods started the day two strokes clear of Singh, but it was Herron who applied the most heat, twice cutting the margin to one shot before surrendering any chance of an upset with a hattrick of bogeys starting at the 14th. “The course was firm, fast,” said Woods, who was unhappy with his putting. “A lot of pins were in the corners and it was a challenge to get the ball close. I hit the ball pretty good starting out and then lost it a little bit in the middle of the round.”
Woods seemed a little subdued in victory, perhaps because he was tired or perhaps because after going without winning a major title this year, anything else is a consolation prize. “Nothing compares to what you feel coming down the stretch in a major. Any player can tell you that,” he said. “It’s hard to swallow. It’s a little bit different atmosphere from today.”
The victory made Woods the favorite for Player of the Year honors, which is voted on by his peers. But with a month left, it’s still up for grabs. “If Vijay had won today, it would have been very difficult for me to have won the money title as well as Player of the Year,” Woods said.
Singh, who has a strained relationship with the media, refused to comment. Not that there was much for him to say after his disappointing performance. Herron was more gracious, although he was not happy to tie for second. “Right now, I’m too disappointed and too angry to think about it,” he said, when asked to rate his season. “I finished horribly. I thought I had a chance to win. I had four three-putts on the back nine, which is disappointing because I feel like I’ve been putting well.”
Appleby never gave a thought to catching Woods. “You don’t ever plan on Tiger coming back, so you just stick your head down and go,” he said. For the record, the two players who have come from behind to beat Woods on the US Tour are Phil Mickelson at the 2000 Tour Championship and Ed Fiori at the 1996 Quad City Classic. On the European Tour, Lee Westwood and Thomas Bjorn have run down Woods. —AFP