Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tiger Makes Bart Go D'oh!

I'm not sure when or if Tiger Woods is ever going to lose another golf tournament. Just when you think he is hopelessly out, he somehow manages to show the intestinal fortitude that makes him Tiger and does something that amazes even me. As Saturday's third round started in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger started the day seven strokes behind a pretty good player in his own right, Vijay Singh. Singh stumbled badly to begin his third round, going four over par the first three holes to let a bunch of players (including Tiger) back into the tournament. When the dust had settled and the third round was completed, Tiger had fired a four-under-par 66 and was tied for the lead with Singh and three others including last week's winner, Sean O'Hair, who tossed up a 7-under par 63 to make up 10 strokes!

So what happened on Sunday? Well, Tiger did his usual Sunday thing, putting himself two strokes ahead of the rest of the field after three birdies on the first nine holes. Tiger looked to make the advantage three strokes on the next hole, but Bart Bryant a group ahead of him birdied it to take the margin back to a stroke. Tiger minutes later uncharacteristically three-putted the same hole for a bogey and suddenly the two were tied for the lead at 8-under par. Bryant bogeyed 11 and birdied 12 to remain even with Tiger. About 20 minutes later, Tiger rolled in a birdie putt on 13 to take another one stroke lead. Bryant matched that with a birdie of his own on 15.

As the holes dwindled, neither player relented, though both did probably play it safe on 18. With two strokes on the rest of the field (Singh, O'Hair and Cliff Kreske), there was no sense in either of them trying to take the ball over the water and at the pin. Bryant's shot landed safely nearly 40 feet from the pin. He got his first putt within 8 inches and made his tap-in par to get into the clubhouse at 9-under par. 15 minutes later, Tiger hit his approach shot to about 22 feet. During the tournaments first 71 holes, the longest putt Tiger had made all week was a little short of 19 feet. He was 0-for-21 on putts of 20 feet or more as he approached his possible tournament winning putt. The moment he hit the putt, it looked like it had a chance it curled and turned right and turned more as it slowed and just about as it's stopping it found it's way into the center of the cup for a dramatic birdie to win the tournament. Tiger was as pumped as I've ever seen him, taking his cap off and slamming it to the ground while doing his usual celebratory fist-pump...

There are many times with Tiger's victories seem routine and boring - this certainly wasn't one of them. With the 64th win of his career, Tiger tied Ben Hogan for third in the all-time list for PGA Tour wins, and it marks the fifth time he's won Arnie's tournament.


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