CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tiger Woods walked with a slight limp toward the 18th green. He was sore and hadn't played his best, yet was minutes away from winning for the ninth time in his last 12 PGA Tour events.
Third-round leader Rory Sabbatini had bragged about wanting to be paired with Woods in the final group, but he, Steve Stricker and Vijay Singh couldn't catch him. It seems nobody can - sore knee or not.
Buoyed by an eagle on the seventh hole, Woods overcame a double bogey on 13, finishing with a 3-under 69 on Sunday for a two-shot win over Stricker at the Wachovia Championship.
"I felt like overall this week I didn't really have my best stuff, but I putted great,'' said Woods, who finished at 13-under 275 in his first tournament since he tied for second at the Masters. "I made the majority of those par putts, and sprinkled in a couple of bombs from 20 or 30 feet.''
And 60 feet. After narrowly missing the water with his tee shot at the seventh, Woods rolled in the long eagle attempt to get to 13-under and take the lead. He then birdied the eighth and ninth for a 31 on the front nine, moving to 15-under and taking a three-shot lead at a windy Quail Hollow.
Normally, that would be it for the world's No. 1 player. But Woods, struggling off the tee, dropped into a tie for the lead when he hit a 4-iron into the rough and then three-putted the 13th green, while Stricker birdied 15 ahead of him.
"I figured I just let so many guys back in the tournament, gave them a shot of momentum,'' Woods said
Instead, his competition faded, even in a major-like field that started with 27 of the top 30 in the world rankings. Woods quickly got his three-shot lead back when Stricker hit into the woods and sand for a double bogey at 16, while Woods birdied 15.
Singh, who was a shot back after Woods' troubles at 13, bogeyed 14 and 16 and hit into the creek twice on 18 for a triple bogey. He shot 74 and finished in a three-way tie for seventh at 7-under.
And Sabbatini, who said he couldn't wait to play with Woods in the final round, never made a charge. He started with nine straight pars and shot 38 on the back nine.