LEMONT, Ill. — There are certain truths here in the Tiger Woods Age. When Tiger putts well, he wins almost without fail. When Tiger drives it straight (you need a good memory to recall this part), he wins almost without fail. When he’s near the lead, he wins almost without fail.
So it was bad news for the rest of the field on Saturday when Woods hit 13 of 14 fairways in the BMW Championship’s third round, posted a 65 that he said was as high as he possibly could’ve shot and was one shot off the lead. Like tracking a hurricane on the Weather Channel, you could see this one coming.
Sunday, Woods won the BMW and took back the lead in the FedEx Cup points race by surviving a how-low-can-you-go shootout with Aaron Baddeley and Steve Stricker. He made a 48-foot putt on the 12th hole to start his charge, then birdied three of the next four holes to assume command.
Stricker made four straight birdies in the middle of the round. Baddeley made three in a row. But by the time Woods reached the 18th hole, he held a two-shot edge over Baddeley and already had one hand on the trophy, the fourth time he has won the tournament previously known as the Western Open. Only Walter Hagen won five Westerns.
Woods played remarkable golf. After a slow start, he made a pair of four-footers for birdies at the seventh and eighth holes, then struggled at the par-5 ninth. He pulled his tee shot left into the trees, had to pitch out and was still more than 200 yards from the green. No problem. He ripped a 6-iron shot onto the green and canned an 18-foot birdie putt.
He failed to birdie the relatively easy 10th and 11th holes, then hit a not-so-great shot at the par-3 12th. Again, no problem. He drilled a 48-foot birdie putt, possibly a turning point in the day’s round.
“There isn’t much you can do,” said Stricker, who played with Woods in the first two rounds. “I would have had to shoot 63 today to beat him. I mean, it’s possible, but you have to play mistake-free. It’s tough.”
Baddeley agreed. “I feel like I did well in that I didn’t lose the golf tournament,” he said. “Tiger won it.”
Woods was already going to be player of the year, but by winning for a sixth time this year, he erased any doubt about who rules this tour. He also put himself in position to win the inaugural FedEx Cup. Remember when he skipped the first week of the playoffs to get rested for the next three events? Apparently, it was a good idea.
Not only did Woods play some of his best golf of the year on the weekend, but that break also kept him from running away with the FedEx Cup. Five players still have a mathematical chance, but if Woods wins the Tour Championship in Atlanta this week, it’ll be his title and his $10 million in deferred compensation.
This was victory no. 60 for Woods, 31. No one has ever reached 60 wins this quickly. He is just two behind Arnold Palmer on the all-time list.
Woods is a .279 hitter. That’s not great in baseball, but in golf it’s an astounding winning percentage — he has 60 wins in 215 starts as a pro and passed $75 million in career earnings.
“I never, ever would have dreamed that this could have happened so soon,” Woods said. “I’ve been out here what — 11 years? And to have this many wins, I never could have foreseen that. I’ve exceeded my expectation and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of work. There have been some changes along the way, you know? But I think that’s all been great.”