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Host has most: Woods wins own event for 1st time

JOSEPH WHITE | 7/6/2009, 10:13 a.m.

Tiger Woods was on the back nine at Congressional, trying to win his own tournament for the first time. His main competition was relaxing in the clubhouse, having a bite to eat and joking with Woods' wife and daughter.

This wasn't a typical Sunday showdown. After all, there was no way Woods could intimidate a player who finished more than an hour earlier with a round that tied the course record. All he could do was try to find a way to make one birdie somewhere between hole No. 12 and the end of the round.
Woods got what he needed at the par-5 16th, sinking a 20-foot putt that proved to be enough to beat Hunter Mahan by one stroke at the AT&T National.

"Six holes to go, and at the time I was tied for the lead," Woods said. "It was just like, 'You can go either way. You can win the tournament or you can lose the tournament from here.' Just got to keep plodding along and hopefully maybe sneak one or two birdies coming in and get the title."

As the tournament host, Woods then got to present the Capitol dome replica trophy to himself and interview himself on the 18th green - "So Tiger, how did you play today?" he said as thousands of fans laughed - and complete an unusual trifecta of winning all three PGA Tour player-hosted events in the same year, having taken the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and Jack Nicklaus' Memorial last month.

"It was great shaking my hand today," said Woods, whose closing round of 67 gave him a 13-under 267 total.

The large Fourth of July weekend crowd arrived Sunday expecting a traditional mano-a-mano battle between Woods and defending champion Anthony Kim. They started the day tied for first and thus shared the final pairing, but Kim fell behind on the front nine and never seemed poised to make a run. He shot 71 to finish third.

"I had a lot of fun," said Kim, paired with Woods for the first time. "I know I'll be knocking on the door again. It's only a matter of time. I learned if you have a birdie putt, you better make it."

Instead, it was Mahan who was shaking up the leaderboard, his 62 tying the Congressional record that Kim had set Thursday. When he was done, Mahan went to the family dining area to wait alongside Woods' wife, Elin, and 2-year-old daughter Sam, watching Woods' pursuit of the needed birdie.

"When he missed on 14, I yelled 'Yes!' in a joking manner," Mahan said. "It wasn't like I was rooting against him, but it was just funny because you usually don't see him miss putts."

Besides, Mahan knew Woods would probably have the last laugh.

"He knows how to play this game better than anybody," Mahan said. "I thought he would get to probably 13 (under) or 14 actually, maybe even 15."

When Woods got to the 16th hole, Mahan headed to the range to warm up in case there would be a playoff. When he heard a roar a half-mile away, his caddie checked his phone and saw that Woods had made birdie.

Mahan finished hitting balls and was headed to the putting green when a young girl approached him for an autograph. He might not have noticed the words on the back of her white T-shirt: "Tiger's Back."

Indeed, it was true. Woods, who missed his tournament last year with a knee injury, finished with routine pars at the 17th and 18th for the win.

Bryce Molder closed with a 68 to finish alone in fourth, putting him atop a special money list that puts him and Paul Goydos into the British Open.

Brandt Snedeker, finally healthy after a rib injury, had a 68-67 weekend and tied for fifth with U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover. Snedeker also earned a spot at Turnberry as the leading player among the top five not already eligible for the British Open.

For Woods, the accolades seem endless. He won for the 68th time on the PGA Tour and the third time this year, moving him to the top of the overall money list and the FedEx Cup standings.

All three of his victories have come in his final start before a major. Woods wasn't able to keep his winning form at either the Masters or the U.S. Open, finishing four shots behind in both tournaments. His next stop: the British Open in two weeks.

"Hopefully," Woods said, "I can play like I did this week."