Tiger Woods now has 80 PGA Tour wins following a two-stroke victory in the Tour Championship in Georgia. Woods, who last won in August 2013, triumphed in grand fashion on Sunday in Atlanta on the eve of the Ryder Cup in which he is one of four America wildcard selections. In the Algarve Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters after Australian Lucas Herbert entered the final day in the lead but couldn’t hold of the in-form Englishman.
Entering Sunday with a three-stroke buffer Woods might have been worried that the chasing duo was recently-minted world number one Justin Rose and a former world number one in Rory McIlroy but that pair faded away with rounds of 73 and 74 respectively as the 14-time major winner’s round of one over 71 was enough to win handily despite three bogeys on the back nine.
Woods’ win was set up by his first three rounds of 65-68-65 and when he birdied six of the first seven holes on Saturday the crowning achievement of his come-back from multiple back surgeries and a host of off-course matters.
The significance on Tiger Woods’ 91st win as a professional golfer can be borne out by the images alone on the 18th hole at East Lake on Sunday as the crowd charged up behind the 42 year-old and playing partner McIlroy. There was a wave of fans immediately behind Woods but a further wave of spectators back behind the water hazard on the fairway. The posted television ratings were THREE TIMES more than the same event last year. Woods for some time even without winning remained influential, but now, again, he’s relevant as a player. Just incredible.
Ironically, despite his final round fade Rose did enough to claim the Fed Ex Cup season-ending crown and the USD10 million bonus but then lost the world number one ranking to Dustin Johnson who finished third at East Lakes. Go figure?
Elsewhere Tom Lewis, who won on the European Tours’ second-tier Challenge Tour recently, overhauled Victorian Lucas Herbert who led by two heading into the final day of the Portugal Masters. Herbert was cruelled when he found the water on 18 at the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course to give up two strokes and his even par round wasn’t enough to see off Lewis who was nine shots behind Herbert after round one. Lewis tore up the course shooting 23 under in his next three rounds and saluting by three over Herbert and England’s Eddie Pepperell to claim the win.
Lewis was lucky when he found the water on 17 but still made par as Herbert missed a birdie opportunity on the same hole. Despite his late slide Herbert joined fellow Australian Jason Scrivener (T12) in confirming his spot on the European Tour next season.
Player performance notes
This year’s Ryder Cup requires the Europeans to gain 14.5 of the 28 points on offer to claim the trophy given the Americans are the current holders for this biennial classic to be staged outside of Paris this year at Le Golf National. Looking at some top performers from each squad.
From Team USA. Over two editions Patrick Reed has gone 6-1-2 (W,L,H) and he was quiet on the weekend in Atlanta so expect him to spring back into life.
From Team Europe. Thomas Pieters showed us a rookie could score well for Europe, and that was away from home, last time out. In that mould Alex Noren can perform in France. The Swede won the French Open this year at this course and also progressed to the semi-finals of the WGC Match-Play this year.
For the win…USA. The consistency and rankings superiority of the Americans should get them over the line, but the form of Noren, Tommy Fleetwood and even Francesco Molinari at the course could give the edge to the Europeans. Wait did I just change my mind? No. USA win 15-13. We are coming off last week’s win.
*Some four hours after this column goes up the early pairings for Friday will be confirmed at 1600hrs UK time Thursday and if either of these two don’t feature early on, very unlikely in Reed’s case, it would be hard for them to reach the top point-scorer mark.
Greens in regulation
Tiger Woods triumph wasn’t the only culmination of a season of golf on the weekend in the USA, the second-tier web.com’s Tour Championship at Atlantic Beach Country Club saw American Denny McCarthy triumph. McCarthy secured one of the PGA Tour 25 cards for next season based on the Final Series performance with Australians Cameron Davis, Matt Jones and Curtis Luck also in that cohort of players as was Hunter Mahan, a three-time Ryder Cup member as recently as 2014. The latter’s slide highlighting how hard the PGA Tour is break onto in the first place and then maintain your place in.
The drama of the Ryder Cup has old stories of names with little consequence otherwise in golf, hello Jarmo Sandelin, and recent tales of instant classic moments such as Rory McIlroy versus Patrick Reed at Hazeltine in 2016. I can’t do justice to most of these here but check out the links to these stories alone.
Image via golfdigest.com