One perfect shot sets up perfect 73rd win for Woods

June 03, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

DUBLIN, Ohio -- We can marvel at the shot. Revel in the celebration that followed, too.

But let's leave it to the greatest player of all time, the one whose records Tiger Woods so doggedly chases, to put that delicate 60-degree wedge that slithered into the 16th hole on Sunday afternoon in perspective.


Woods was one shot off the lead when he hit an 8-iron over the back right corner of the green at that par 3, a 205-yard tester that played as the most difficult of the week. When he got to the ball, Woods found it nestled in a scruffy lie in the rough. He was looking at a downhill shot to a green registering 13 on the Stimpmeter and a pond lurking ominously several paces behind the pin.

But Woods, as he has done so many times before in so many different situations at so many different tournaments, executed to perfection. He had hoped to get the ball inside 10 feet to have a chance at par. Instead, the ball dropped in for a birdie that paved the way to Woods' fifth title at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.

"If he's short, he loses the tournament," Jack Nicklaus said. "If he's long, he's in the water. So he takes a full swing and lands it exactly where he has to land it and it trickled into the hole like a little 2-foot putt.

"I have seen a lot of shots in golf, but I don't think I've ever seen a better one."

Woods was pretty darn pleased, too, judging by that roundhouse, upper-cut of a fist pump he executed after the ball took its final revolution into the cup. And when Rory Sabbatini couldn't save par from the greenside bunker on the same hole about 10 minutes later, Woods had a lead he would not relinquish on the way to the 73rd win of his career, a win that, not coincidentally, tied him with Nicklaus for second all time.

"I went for it," Woods said simply. "I pulled it off, and for it to land as soft as it did was kind of a surprise because it was baked out and it was also downhill running away from me. It just fell in. I didn't think it was going to get there at one point. Kind of like 16 at Augusta (in 2005), I thought I was going to leave it short somehow, and then it fell in."

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On a day when he didn't have his A or B or probably even his C game in shooting 84, Rickie Fowler was playing with Woods, trying, as the orange-clad 23-year-old would later say, just to "stay out of the way" on the back nine. He missed the green, too, but Fowler had a better angle to the pin. He could still see the difficulty of Woods' shot.

"You hit a good shot to get it inside 10 feet, and it came out perfect, landed kind of right on the crown of that ridge there, and the rest is history," Fowler said, stopping short of calling it lucky given the man who was executing it.

"He loves, obviously, loves, being in the moment, and that's where he kind of gets down, focuses and hits those shots. It was fun to see."

Fowler, who picked up his first PGA TOUR victory last month in Charlotte, has often played practice rounds with Woods at The Medalist back in Jupiter, Fla. Sunday was just the third time the two had been paired together in competition, all in the last month, and Fowler liked what he saw -- Woods owning his evolving swing under pressure just like back home.

"He looked very comfortable and hit a lot of good shots, and like I said, the times where he's in the moment and in the heat of contention is where he really shines," Fowler said.

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Indeed. Woods closed with birdies on three of his last four holes to engineer the come-from-behind victory, which made him the third two-time winner on the PGA TOUR this year and moved him to third in the FedExCup. Any doubts that arose after Woods followed the win at Bay Hill that ended a 30-month drought with two ties for 40th and just the eighth missed cut of his career have been erased with the start of the season's second major 11 days on the horizon.

"I'm sure by Tuesday I'll be retired and done, and then by the time I tee it up at the U.S. Open, it might be something different," Woods said, flashing that megawatt smile. "But I'll let you guys figure that out."

Interestingly, Woods saw all the fine-tuning he and Sean Foley have done on his swing jell during Tuesday's practice round at the Olympic Club where he will look to win his 15th major -- and his first since the epic 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines where the willful Woods beat Rocco Mediate on essentially one leg. He came to Muirfield Village, a course that has always fit his eye, with considerable confidence.

"(The swing changes) finally felt comfortable, basically," Woods said. "As soon as they felt comfortable, I was good to go. And when I went out and played Olympic, I hit the ball well there. I said, hey, that's as good a prep as any for this event, if I can hit the ball well there."

And vice versa, if Woods is lucky.

"I'll just keep going, keep working on it," he said. "This is a process, and just trying to get better. I have a big event in two weeks, and we go back to work next week to get ready."