To watch Tiger Woods is to be reminded of one of the better lines of the 1995 movie "Apollo 13": "If they could get a washing machine to fly," says Blanche Lovell, "my Jimmy could land it."
So it is with Tiger and golf. Hatch a competition like nothing else, make the rules as opaque as possible, and Woods is going to find a way to win it.
Two weeks after he skipped the Barclays, supposedly damaging his chances of winning the inaugural FedEx Cup, Tiger Woods won the BMW Championship to take a commanding lead in the four-week playoffs with a week remaining. He tied the Cog Hill course record with an eight-under-par 63 for a tournament record 22-under-par total and a two-stroke victory over Aaron Baddeley on Sunday.
"As I've always said, winning takes care of everything," Woods said.
His bogey-free round was highlighted by a 50-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th hole, a "bomb," as Woods later called it. Baddeley and playing partner Steve Stricker, the 54-hole leader, were on the 12th tee when it went in.
"It looked like he looked back to make sure that we were watching him make the birdie," said Stricker, who responded by pushing his 3-iron tee shot into the trees and making bogey 4 on the hole.
Woods took the lead for good when he also birdied the 482-yard, par-4 13th.
"At that point, playing catch-up to Tiger is tough to do," Stricker said.
Stricker, a 40-year-old from Wisconsin, finished third, four shots behind Woods, to climb into second in the FedEx Cup points race. Woods has 112,733 points, followed by Stricker at 109,600. Phil Mickelson, who took the week off after beating Woods at the Deutsche Bank, drops to third with 108,613 points.
Rory Sabbatini (103,588) and K.J. Choi (103,100) round out the top five and are the only other players with a mathematical chance at winning the Cup.
One of the more amusing moments Sunday came when Mickelson rang NBC analyst Johnny Miller's cell phone to chat with the announcer while he was on-air. Although Mickelson's voice could not be heard on the telecast, Miller paraphrased that the left-hander was keeping an eye on his TV set.
It was Woods's fourth professional victory at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club's Dubsdread Course, which may as well be renamed T-Dubsdread, as in TW. It was also his 60th career win on Tour, and his sixth in 15 starts this year. His 2007 winning percentage moves to .400.
"I feel like I did well in that I didn't lose the golf tournament, he won it," Baddeley said. "Shooting eight under to win … is a heck of a round."
The $1.26 million winner's check pushes Woods over $9 million in season earnings for the fourth time in his career. He led the field in total driving and birdies and totaled zero three-putts.
When the Tour was concocting the FedEx Cup more than a year ago, it could not have imagined a scenario much better than this. The winners have been the game's two biggest stars, Woods and Mickelson, and wild card Stricker (Barclays), who refuses to go away.
Alas, there remains one potential FedEx Cup buzz-kill. The greens at East Lake Golf Club, home of this week's Tour Championship, have suffered so much heat damage over the summer that they may be borderline unplayable, and no practice rounds will be allowed. The players will not set foot on the greens until Thursday.
"You're going to have to accept missing a bunch of putts," Woods said. "It is what it's going to be. Just like playing — sometimes when you play at Pebble or Poppy and Spyglass, you hit good putts from two feet and they just don't go in."
Still, it's golf. You get the feeling Tiger Woods will figure it out.