Grand Blanc, Mich.
Esteban Toledo once was a boxer by trade, throwing punches effectively enough to put together a professional record of 12-1. But at the Buick Open Aug. 11, he went toe-to-toe with the biggest heavyweight of them all – Tiger Woods.
Woods struggled on the weekend at Warwick Hills, and Toledo, who was trailing by one shot with six holes to play, had his opening before a bogey-bogey-bogey stretch did him in. Woods played the same stretch of holes (Nos. 13-15) in 1 under, and suddenly, the No. 1 player in the world had a four-shot cushion with four to play. There was little mystery who was going to win this decision.
Woods closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 17-under 271, winning by four despite a double bogey at the 71st hole. The Buick was his 33rd PGA Tour victory, and fourth in his last eight starts.
“You want to feel like you’re playing well going into a (major) championship,” Woods said before departing Sunday night for the PGA Championship at Hazeltine. “And any time you win, you feel good.”
Although he missed a chance to win the Grand Slam with a tie for 28th at the British Open, Woods left for Minnesota with a chance to accomplish a major feat – that is, trying to secure three majors in the same season for the second time in three years. Ben Hogan won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in 1953, and Woods, who has won seven of the last 12 majors, won the final three majors of 2000.
Toledo, who grew up the youngest of 11 children in a family that had little in Mexico, shot 73 to finish at 13 under, tying for second with Mark O’Meara (68), Brian Gay (68) and Fred Funk (71). A bogey at the par-4 18th hole kept Toledo from finishing alone in second, and cost him $138,600. After making only four bogeys in his first 66 holes, he bogeyed four of his last six. Nonetheless, Toledo’s runner-up finish matched his best on Tour.
“I wasn’t at nervous at all,” Toledo said. “Nobody impressed me. I’m not scared of anybody. This is the way I’m brought up. . . . I told my wife this morning, I’m going to go out there and win it.”
Only three times previously had Woods competed the week before a major – all at the Buick, an event he had not won. Woods opened with 67, shot a season-best 63 in the second round, then struggled to a third-round 71, hitting his second shot of the day out of bounds en route to an opening double.
“I won this tournament two ways,” he said. “The first two days, I hit the ball great, and in the last two rounds, I made every putt I looked at. If I can combine those two things, I’ll be in great shape for (the PGA).”
Woods won $594,000 to extend his Tour-leading total to more than $4.5 million. He also stretched his record to 25-2 in Tour events when leading or tied for the lead after 54 holes.
Now, that’s a guy with a knockout punch.
– From staff and wire reports