ATLANTA — The most significant win in Tiger Woods’ career was his 1997 triumph at the Masters, where he became the first African American to win at Augusta National. And there have been a lot of others that stick out, such as his U.S. Open triumph by 15 shots in 2000 at Pebble Beach.
Then there was Woods’ win at the 2000 British Open at St. Andrews by eight shots when he didn’t hit into any of the infamous pot bunkers littered around the home of golf. Woods’ 2008 U.S. Open win over Rocco Mediate in a Monday playoff that went 19 holes is also unforgettable.
Woods said Saturday evening that he has donated some of his trophies to charities over the years and given others to his mother and close friends, but he still has scores of others scattered around his Jupiter, Fla. estate. It’s doubtful he will touch any of his Claret Jugs, Wannamaker trophies, Masters or U.S. Open trophies, but you’ve got to believe he will find a special place for the Calamity Jane, a silver putter he was given Sunday evening after he won the 2018 Tour Championship.
After waiting more than five years since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – 1,876 days to be precise – and undergoing four back surgeries to alleviate pain in his neck and lower back, Woods was emotional on the 18th green during the closing ceremonies.
“I can’t believe I pulled this off after the season I’ve gone through,” he said as tears welled in his eyes and the crowd roared with delight. “It’s just hard to believe that I’ve won the Tour Championship.”
For most of the round, Woods utilized the strategy that earned him title after title in the early and mid-2000s. Starting with a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, Woods made a birdie on the first hole, then peeled off eight pars as his closest pursuers made errors. With every hole Woods played and every par he carded, it was as if a rachet clicked tighter around the rest of the field, applying more pressure and reducing the number of holes that remained to catch him.
“I just wanted to shoot under par today. I figured that would be the number,” Woods said. “This golf course was playing hard enough where it was going to be hard to make birdies, and there was only two guys chasing me at the time. With Rory and Justin there only three back, if I stayed under par, they’d obviously have to shoot a really good round, but somebody from the pack would have to shoot an unbelievable round, the round of the week to force it into extra. I felt like if I just went out there and did my own thing and shot under par, the tournament would be over.”
A pair of late bogeys at 15 and 16 made things a little more interesting than Woods might have liked, but a clutch chip on 17 and a par on the 18th gave Woods a 1-over 71 for an 11-under 269 total and a two-shot win over Billy Horschel, who shot a closing 66.
Dustin Johnson shot 67 to finish in third and reclaim the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking, ending Rose’s two week’s at No. 1. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama shot 65 to tie for fourth with Webb Simpson (67) and Rose, who clinched the season-long FedEx Cup with a birdie on No. 18 despite a closing 73.
“That putt on 17 was a lot bigger than people think,” Woods said, referring to his putt from off the green that set up a 4-footer for par. “At the time, could have dropped down to a one-shot lead playing the last hole, hit a bad tee shot, pitched out, a lot of things can happen. But a two-shot lead playing a par 5, which I can hit driver-iron to, that’s a totally different ballgame.
“The lie I had (for the third shot on No. 17) was not that great. It was sitting down, it was hard underneath there, but it was sparse, and so I couldn’t quite hit it as hard as I wanted to. I had to try and play for a little bit of a heater there. And it came out a little bit warm, which was great, and rolled down next to the hole. But that was a big hole for me.”
Woods entered the final round having won 53 of the 57 events in his PGA Tour career in which he led or shared the lead after 54 holes. With an outright lead after three rounds, Woods had won 42 times and lost only twice.
“I appreciate it a little bit more than I did because I don’t take it for granted that I’m going to have another decade, two decades in my future of playing golf at this level,” Woods said.
It marked the fourth time that the Tour Championship winner and the FedEx Cup winner were not the same player. Last season, Xander Schauffele won the tournament and Justin Thomas won the FedEx Cup, and in 2009 Phil Mickelson triumphed at East Lake while Woods won the FedEx Cup. In 2009, Camilo Villegas won the Tour Championship and Vijay Singh won the FedEx Cup.
The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that starting next season there will be a strokes-based advantage given to players based on where they finished on the FedEx Cup point list after the BMW Championship. The player who wins the Tour Championship automatically will win the FedEx Cup.