MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Not even the most unpredictable tournament in golf could keep Tiger Woods from an inevitable victory.
There seems to be no stopping him.
Stewart Cink barely put up a fight Sunday in the Accenture Match Play Championship, where Woods broke a scoring record for the fourth straight tournament, collected his fifth straight victory worldwide and didn’t so much as crack a smile when someone asked him if a perfect season was within reach.
“That’s my intent,” he said. “That’s why you play. It you don’t believe you can win an event, don’t show up.”
Relentless as ever, Woods made 14 birdies in 29 holes in the high desert of Dove Mountain to overwhelm Stewart Cink for an 8-and-7 victory, the largest margin in the final match in the 10-year history of his fickle event.
Woods captured his 15th World Golf Championship, holding all three world titles for the first time.
And his 63rd career victory moved him past Arnold Palmer and into fourth place alone on the PGA Tour’s career list. His next victory will tie him with Ben Hogan.
Golf is not a fair fight at the moment.
“I think maybe we ought to slice him open to see what’s inside,” Cink said. “Maybe nuts and bolts.”
Cink was only the latest victim in a winning streak that dates to Sept. 3, 2007, a date worth remembering.
Woods won the BMW Championship the following week at 262, breaking the tournament scoring record by five shots. He won the Tour Championship by a record eight shots, and the Buick Invitational by the same margin, another tournament record.
This is the third time Woods has won at least four straight PGA Tour events. He also won in Dubai three weeks ago on the European tour by coming back from a four-shot deficit.
“I think this is the best stretch I’ve ever played,” Woods said.
He has won six of his last seven PGA Tour events, 16 of his last 30 over the last two years.
The confidence in his game is so high that Woods started this season by saying the Grand Slam was “easily within reason.” For now, he has a Triple Crown of the World Golf Championships, a sweep that included an eight-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and a two-shot victory in the CA Championship at Doral.
Woods’ tour winning streak was at seven last year when Nick O’Hern beat him in the third round of the Match Play. Given the fickle nature of this format, even Woods said it was the toughest tournament to win this side of a major.
Turns out the hard part was just getting to the final match.
Woods rallied from three down with five holes to play in the opening round against J.B. Holmes by winning four straight holes with three birdies and a 35-foot eagle. He twice watched Aaron Baddeley putt from inside 12 feet to win a third-round match, beating the Australian in 20 holes. And he was stretched to 18 holes in the semifinals against defending champion Henrik Stenson.
“I played 117 holes this week,” Woods said. “I could have easily played 16 and then been home. That’s the fickleness of match play.”
But the final was no contest.
He built a 4-up lead after the morning round of 66, and Cink never got any closer.
Cink didn’t win a hole until No. 12, and the only hole he won in the afternoon came at the par-5 10th when he rolled in a 36-foot eagle putt. Woods had an eagle putt from 35 feet, and the ball spun around the cup.
“Even the minuscule amount that I upstaged him there — him being 8 up — I still thought he was going to make it,” Cink said. “He lipped it out, and I thought, ‘Hey, come on. At least give me a moment to shine here.’ And he said, ‘Sorry, dude.”‘
The next stop for Woods is the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“Anytime you’re associated with Arnold and what he’s done with the game of golf, it’s always a positive thing,” Woods said about going 1-up in career victories over the King. “I could never have foreseen my victory total being this high, my game improvement being as much as it has been, my knowledge of the game.”
Woods’ record in the WGCs is simply ridiculous. This is the 10th year of this series, which was designed to bring together the best players in the world. Identifying the best? That was never a serious question.
Woods is a staggering 15-of-26 in official WGC events, three of those in the Match Play Championship. Darren Clarke (Match Play, Bridgestone) is the only other player with multiple WGC victories.
The world’s No. 1 player has built a career on these events alone:
— Woods earned $1.35 million Sunday, giving him over $19.8 million in these elite events. That’s roughly 25 percent of Woods’ career PGA Tour earnings, and more than Tom Lehman has earned in more than 430 tour starts.
— He was won 15 times in WGC events, as many victories as Fred Couples has in his entire PGA Tour career.
“It says about the same thing that just about any other stat you can pull up of him says,” Cink said. “It says he’s the best that’s ever played.”
Stenson won the first four holes and defeated Justin Leonard in the consolation match, 3 and 2. Leonard should earn enough world ranking points to move into the top 40, boosting his chances of getting into the Masters.
Cink earned $800,000 and will look back on a week in which he beat British Open champion Padraig Harrington and U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera before running out of magic against the reigning PGA champion.
“I’m a little disappointed I didn’t throw a little more at Tiger, put some pressure on him,” Cink said.
Woods already was 4 up after eight holes in the morning when he mentioned that a rules official had just warned them that they were close to being put on the clock for slow play.
“Who are we holding up?” Woods whispered with a bemused grin, noting they were the only match on the course.
Truth is, he might as well have been playing alone.