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Tiger coasts to a runaway victory

September 14, 2009

 

Tiger Woods watches after his tee shot on the third hole during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament in Lemont , Ill. , on Sunday.


LEMONT, Ill. - Tiger Woods' only way out was a 3-iron through a 20-foot wide corridor of fans and 30-foot high canopy of trees. For his next shot, he had to hook a 9-iron around another big tree and try to bounce it up a ramp onto the green.

After all that, he wound up with another birdie.

Walking off the ninth green with his lead still at seven shots, Woods shrugged his shoulders and smiled as if nothing could go wrong.

Hardly anything did at the BMW Championship.

All it took was one big week to end a month of frustration for the world's No. 1 player.

One day after his course-record 62 gave him a seven-shot lead, Woods made sure no one else had a chance Sunday at Cog Hill, where he closed with a 3-under 68 for an eight-shot victory over Jim Furyk and Marc Leishman.

The victory was his sixth of the year and assured Woods of the No. 1 seed for the final tournament of the FedEx Cup.

It was his first victory since he blew a two-shot lead last month in the final round of the PGA Championship. His most recent chance at winning came at Liberty National two weeks ago, where he missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last hole to get into a playoff.

"To play as well as I have of late and not get the Ws has been a little bit frustrating, no doubt, because I've been so close," he said. "It's just been a matter of making a couple of putts here and there, and I would have won the tournaments. And lo and behold, boom! I hit the ball just as well, just as consistent this week, and I made a few putts. And that's how it happens."

Woods finished at 19-under 265 to win for the fifth time at Cog Hill. It was his 10th career PGA Tour victory by at least eight shots.

Not that Cog Hill was devoid of drama.

"It felt like we had a tournament within a tournament," Furyk said after his 66. "Tiger was seven ahead. He was kind of running away. It was kind of a tournament for second place."

It turned out to be much more.

As Woods cruised around Cog Hill in his familiar red shirt, a dozen players behind him were scrambling to move high enough in the FedEx Cup standings for a shot at the $10 million prize at the Tour Championship, or simply to be part of the 30-man finale at East Lake.

Furyk's runner-up finish moved him up 15 spots to No. 3, meaning he can win the FedEx Cup with a victory at the Tour Championship.

Leishman, a rookie from Australia who closed with a 69, only advanced to the third round of playoffs at Cog Hill by making an eagle putt on his final hole last week at the TPC Boston. Now he's headed to the Tour Championship for an outside shot at $10 million, and is assured of making his first trip to the Masters.

"It was an awesome day for me," he said.

Most compelling, however, was the battle for the 30th and final spot.

The heartbreaker belonged to Brandt Snedeker, who needed only a bogey on the 18th hole to get into the Tour Championship. After missing a 12-footer for par, he watched in shock as his 3-foot bogey putt caught the left lip of the cup. Snedeker was so stunned that he missed the next two putts from tap-in range and took triple bogey.

"I can't believe I did this," Snedeker said. "I just made a mess of it."

That allowed John Senden to capture the 30th spot by less than a half-point over Ian Poulter, and both tried to throw it away.

Senden had 90 yards to the par-5 15th and chunked his wedge so badly that it traveled only 50 yards. Two holes later, he hit a bunker shot over the green and into the water to make double bogey. Because of Snedeker's blunder, however, Senden is going to East Lake.

He finished 0.46 points ahead of Poulter, who hit his approach into the water on the 18th hole.

Far easier to compute was Woods winning.

He finished at 19-under 265 for his 71st career victory, leaving two short of Jack Nicklaus for second on the PGA Tour's career list. Woods also tied Sam Snead with his sixth season of at least six victories.

"It's one of my best years," Woods said, alluding to his return from missing eight months with knee surgery.

Woods won for the first time since his aura was slightly tarnished at the PGA Championship, where he lost a lead in the final round for the first time since he was a 20-year-old rookie. Y.E. Yang rallied from two shots behind to beat him at Hazeltine, ending Woods' streak of never losing a major with at least a share of the lead.

No way he was about to lose this one not at Cog Hill, and not the way he was hitting shots and making putts.

Cog Hill became the fourth course where Woods has won at least five times. He has won seven times at Torrey Pines and Firestone, and six times at Bay Hill.

Now comes the hard part.

Woods' sixth victory likely sewed up another PGA Tour player of the year award no one else has won more than three times this year. And while he has a 1,504-point lead over Steve Stricker, the points are reset for the Tour Championship.

As the No. 1 seed, Woods will have 2,500 points, with Stricker at 2,250. The rest of the top five are Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum. All of them can win the FedEx Cup with a victory at East Lake. Everyone else will need some help.

 

Associated Press