Tiger Finishes Second in Thrilling Final Round Of The PGA Championship
ST. LOUIS – Turns out Carnoustie was an appetizer.
Tiger Woods never led like he did on the closing nine at the Open last month, but he drew within a shot of the top-spot Sunday with heart and fight at sun-baked Bellerive Country Club in the final round of the 100th PGA Championship.
It was a performance for the ages.
Trailing Brooks Koepka by four, the 42-year-old Woods fashioned eight birdies and a 6-under-par 64 to capture solo second for the first time since the 2009 TOUR Championship.
Not only did it equal the low round of the day, it matched his best showing of the season, Woods sharing second at the Valspar Championship in March.
He posted 70-66-66-64 to finish at 14-under 266, two behind Koepka, who ended with a 66.
Playing in his 80th major, Woods established career-bests for lowest last round and best 72-hole total.
“This has been a building process,” said Woods, who has registered five top-10’s in 14 starts. “I didn’t know when I was going to start this year and how many tournaments I was going to play, how well I was going to play. I didn’t know what swing I was going to use, either.”
Koepka became the first player since Woods in 2000 to claim the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.
Woods accomplished it despite a bogey-double-bogey start on Thursday. He was 17-under the rest of the way.
This was different than Valspar. Playing in golf’s final major in a 90-degree pressure-cooker, Woods showed once again why he has chalked up 79 PGA Tour victories and 14 major crowns, both second all-time. He loves competition and never quits.
Backed by the raucous sellout crowd, Woods put on a dazzling weekend display, but gave the poised and powerful Koepka too much of a head start Sunday.
Fully embracing the moment, even hand-slapping spectators in the trees after an errant tee shot, Woods battled from beginning to end. Dressed in his traditional Sunday red shirt, he pulled an iron off the tee at the par-4 first hole and caught a fairway bunker. Undaunted, Woods stuffed his approach seven feet behind the pin and lipped out.
He did even better at the second and third. Woods wedged his second shot four feet at No. 2 and almost aced No. 3, polishing off the short birdie putts.
Woods made clutch par-saves at the fourth and fifth, but bogeyed the long par-3 sixth, finding the back-left bunker. He stayed within reach of the lead with another stellar par-save at the seventh, dropping a testy six-foot putt. At the par-5 eighth, Woods flagged his third shot from the front bunker for an easy birdie.
Then he brought down the house.
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Woods pulled an iron off the tee at the par-4 ninth, the ball coming to rest on a cart path. After receiving a free drop on hard pan, he hooked a 9-iron around the trees to 15 feet and buried the putt.
“Everybody on the golf course heard it,” Koepka said. He’s the greatest player to ever play the game, and to have the comeback that he’s having is incredible.”
Playing two groups ahead of Koepka and Adam Scott, Woods turned in 3-under 32, despite missing every fairway. He one-putted the last eight greens.
“I didn’t drive it good all day,” said Woods, who had a two-way miss going during his pre-round range session and practically willed himself around the course. “I knew this was going to be a struggle to try and piece together a round and I did.”
One back at the turn, Woods stuffed a short iron five feet from the hole at the par-4 12th, then lofted a towering 8-iron to 10 feet at the 188-yard par-3 13th, converting for birdies.
Following a momentum-crushing bogey at the par-4 14th, where he caught most of the cup from 12 feet, Woods crushed a drive at the par-4 15th and hoisted a 9-iron two feet from the hole.
He had a chance to catch Koepka with an uphill 20-foot birdie attempt at the par-4 16th, but came up short. Woods blocked a bad drive into the trees at the long par-5 17th and was fortunate to avoid a creek. He wound up sinking an eight-foot putt to save par.
Woods finished like a champion. He busted a 320-yard drive at 18 and knocked his approach 20 feet from the hole. When his birdie putt disappeared – only his 23rd of the round, Woods gave it a triple-fist pump and received a thunderous ovation.
“These fans were so positive all week,” said Woods. “I can’t thank them enough for what they were saying out there and what it meant to me as a player, just coming back and trying to win a major championship again.”
Woods hit five of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens. He finished second in strokes gained on approach shots to the green.
“The energy in the crowd, that was as big a crowd as I’ve seen and to play in front of, he just kind of ho-hummed a 64,” said playing partner Gary Woodland.
Woods now has 31 runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour, with eight coming in majors.
After undergoing his fourth back surgery in April of 2017, Woods thought his career might be done. He slipped to No. 656 in the Official World Golf Ranking and many wrote him off.
Woods is now 26.
He also climbed to No. 20 on the FedEx Cup points list and No. 11 in the Ryder Cup standings.
“I’m very pleased at what I’ve done so far and now to be a part of the Ryder Cup conversation, going from where I’ve come from to now in the last year, it’s been pretty cool,” said Woods.
He returns to competition on Aug. 23 at the Northern Trust, the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.