Tiger ties Jack with comeback win at Memorial
Hitting clutch shots when it mattered and stroking in key putts when required, Tiger Woods fired a final-round, 5-under-par 67 Sunday to win the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, for a record fifth time.
It was a sweet victory for the 36-year-old Woods, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this year. He now has 73 career titles on the PGA Tour, catching Memorial host Jack Nicklaus, as the duo rank second all-time. Sam Snead holds the all-time record with 82.
“I really didn’t miss a shot today,” said Woods, who has now won multiple PGA Tour titles in the same season 13 times.
As is his custom, Nicklaus greeted the winner behind the 18th green after Woods completed his round.
“To do it here with Jack watching on the last hole is pretty special,” Woods said. “He means a lot to all of us players. We all look up to him and he’s the greatest champion that’s ever lived.”
Woods did it in comeback fashion. Starting the final round four strokes behind Spencer Levin, he birdied three of the last four holes, including a delicate, 50-foot downhill flop shot that found the cup from deep rough behind the par-3 16th green. Afterward, on television, Nicklaus called it the best shot he had ever seen.
“The most unbelievable, gutsy shot I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Look at the position he’s in. If he’s short, the tournament is over. If he’s long, the tournament is over. He hits in the hole.”
“It was a lot harder than the one I made at 14,” Woods said of another amazing chip-in at Memorial several years back. “The lie wasn’t all that great. I had to take a cut at it and the ball came out perfect.”
Woods pumped his right fist vigorously and gave a fist bump to caddie Joe LaCava. But their work wasn’t done.
The birdie merely tied Rory Sabbatini, who was playing behind Woods and Rickie Fowler in the final twosome with Levin. But Woods assumed the outright lead with a two-putt par at 17, while Sabbatini made bogey at 16. Tiger also birdied 18, hitting a 9-iron to about eight feet and pouring in the putt to put a headlock on the trophy and secure his 21st come-from-behind victory.
Woods’ 67, which equaled the lowest round of the day, left him at 9-under 279, two strokes better than Sabbatini and Andres Romero. His previous Memorial wins came in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2009.
He also won $1,116,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points.
Coming into the tournament, Woods wasn’t feeling well and was dragging from allergy and flu-like symptoms. He broke a 102-degree fever on Friday night. That being said, he played solid golf the first two rounds, his lone miscues a pair of double bogeys.
Woods stayed patient, did a wonderful job of controlling the trajectory of his golf shots and putted well, using 28 putts in each of the first two rounds. He three-putted just once.
Tee to green, Woods was solid. Although he seldom hit driver, opting for position on the rain-softened fairways, he hit 93 percent of the fairways and 78 percent of the greens in regulation on Sunday — tying for first for the week in the latter category at 73.6 percent.
Woods had gotten off to strong starts on the front nine all week, and he did again Sunday. After a two-putt par from 24 feet at No. 1, Tiger knocked his approach from 137 yards to 8 1/2 feet at the par-4 second and converted the first of seven birdies.
Woods two-putted the third and fourth holes for pars, then birdied the par-5 fifth. He played short of the green in two, wedged his third shot from 45 feet to seven feet and buried the putt.
Tiger came right back with a 20-foot birdie putt at the 447-yard, par-4 sixth hole, then bagged his third straight at the par-5 seventh, where he hit a beautiful 5-wood from 253 yards into the center of the green and two-putted for birdie from 32 feet, his eagle bid grazing the left side of the cup.
A poor 7-iron to the 188-yard, par-3 eighth hole found a right greenside bunker and left Woods little chance to shoot for the flag. He took his medicine, played out to the right and two-putted for a bogey.
Woods two-putted the par-4 ninth hole from 24 feet for a par to make the turn in 3-under 33, two strokes behind Levin.
The back side didn’t begin well as Woods bogeyed the par-4 10th hole. From there, he hit a poor bunker shot 13 feet from the cup and two-putted.
Woods was unable to birdie the par-5 11th. He hit a nice third shot to about eight feet but left his birdie attempt short.
The par-3 12th hole gave Woods and most players problems all week, and Sunday was no exception. Although he did manage to find the putting surface on the left side of the green, Tiger was left with an 86-foot cross-country putt, which he left nearly six feet short. But Woods polished it off to keep his comeback hopes alive.
After a two-putt par at No. 13, Woods made a nice par save at No. 14, eventually holing a five-foot par putt. Then Tiger made his move. He reached the green in two at the par-5 15th, two-putting for a birdie from 45 feet. That set up the heroics at No. 16 which, while not a major tournament, certainly belong in the final-round lore of his chip-in at No. 16 at Augusta National during the 2005 Masters when he outlasted Chris DiMarco in a playoff.
Fowler had the best view of the shot.
“It came out perfect, landed on the crown on that ridge there, and the rest is history,” he said. “I mean, he loves being in the moment and that’s where he kind of gets down, focuses and hits those shots. It was fun to see.”
Woods entered the week ranked ninth in the Official World Golf Ranking. With Sunday’s win, he rose to fourth.
Woods will return to competition in two weeks at the U.S. Open Championship at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.