Woods caps triumph with record showing in host tourney
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The final putt of the year safely in the hole for par and another victory, Tiger Woods was quickly reminded what kind of year 2007 turned out to be.
First, he walked over to his six-month-old daughter, dressed in a red fleece top, for a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the head. Then came the presentation on the 18th green at Sherwood Country Club, where Woods collected his eighth trophy of the year.
He became a father for the first time in June. He won his 13th career major in August at the PGA Championship. He swept all the major awards to further separate himself from the rest of golf.
The final piece came Sunday at the Target World Challenge, a seven-shot victory and a $1.35 million check that goes to his Tiger Woods Learning Center.
"This year on the golf course, it's been a great year,'' Woods said. "Off the golf course, it's been the greatest year I've ever had.''
Woods first understood what he called the "power of family'' when Padraig Harrington made double bogey on the 18th hole at Carnoustie and was all smiles when he saw his son, Patrick, while waiting to see if there would be a playoff at the British Open.
There was no such suspense at Sherwood, at least not for long.
Jim Furyk cut a six-shot lead down to two at the turn and was poised to get even closer on the 10th hole. Woods holed a 12-foot birdie putt up the slope, and Furyk three-putted for bogey from 4 feet above the hole. It was a stunning two-shot swing, and Woods soon restored his margin and coasted to victory.
He closed with a 4-under 68 to tie the tournament record at 22-under 266, making him the first player to win consecutive titles at this year-end tournament for an elite, 16-man field.
Masters champion Zach Johnson won the B-flight and a load of Christmas cash. Johnson birdied the last hole for a 68 to finish second, worth $840,000. Furyk, who hit another tee shot in the water for double bogey on the 15th, shot a 71 to finish third and won $570,000.
The margin of victory was the largest at this tournament in its nine-year history, and it was the third time this year that Woods won a tournament by seven shots or more. And this after taking a 10-week break.
"Doesn't help us, does it?'' Colin Montgomerie said. "If he took a bloody year off, it would help. Never mind 10 weeks.''
Woods had to sweat, but it was only a drop.
He was six shots clear until a two-shot swing on the seventh hole, when Furyk made birdie and Woods three-putted for his first bogey. Furyk birdied the next hole, and Woods dropped a shot on the ninth when he failed to save par from a bunker.
Suddenly, the lead was two shots going to the back nine, and Furyk immediately applied pressure with a wedge that he hit with no spin to about 4 feet above the flag. Woods hit wedge that spun back 12 feet below the cup, and that made all the difference.
Woods calmly made the birdie putt, while Furyk's putt slid by the cup and rolled 4 feet by. He slapped at the face of his putter, then missed the par putt for a two-shot swing.
"Jimmy put a ton of heat on me the front nine,'' Woods said. "The whole tournament switched on the 10th. That was a big two-shot swing there.''
Woods' lead was back to four, and he kept that margin until the par-3 15th.
Furyk was three shots behind Saturday until hitting 6-iron into the water. The final round was no different. Furyk found the water again for double bogey, and he was back to where he started, six shots behind.
"You don't start six down to Tiger very often and cut it to two, so I had a really good opportunity,'' Furyk said. "And I wasn't able to take advantage of it.''
The only question after that was the margin of victory, and whether Rory Sabbatini made it safely to Hawaii.
Sabbatini, who was in last place going into the final round, withdrew from the 16-man field Sunday morning. He told the PGA Tour he was pulling out for "personal reasons,'' but his agent later said it was due to shin splints.
A locker-room attendant said Sabbatini told him Saturday night he was leaving for Maui, and tournament officials were still looking for his courtesy car late Sunday afternoon.
The South African still received $170,000 for last place, but perhaps lost some respect along the way.
"I think I could have toughed it out one more round,'' Mark Calcavecchia said. "I don't think the fans missed him.''
Told that Sabbatini's agent said the reason was shin splints, Fred Couples wasn't buying.
"Of course, he did,'' Couples said. "And Roger Clemens' agent said he didn't do steroids.''
Asked if he minded that Sabbatini took off, a cold stare from Woods said otherwise.
"I'd like to try and get to the bottom of it when I'm done here, and we'll see what happens,'' he said.
It certainly had no bearing on the tournament. Woods hasn't been seen at a golf tournament in 10 weeks, and it was as though he never left. His swing wasn't as polished as it was the first two rounds, but it was no different from his summer surge when it counted.
"I took four weeks off and struggled,'' Paul Casey said after finishing 21 shots behind. "We have a saying in England that he was Rolls Roycing it. You fire up the car and it purrs perfectly. I'm very envious.''
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press