Tiger Crushes The Competition
Accurate driving and deadly putting put the field away on Sunday.
LEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- The champion at Cog Hill, the front-runner for the FedEx Cup.
Indeed, Tiger Woods is where most everyone figured he would be heading into the final week of the PGA Tour Playoffs.
With a 50-foot birdie putt that got him back on track Sunday, Woods matched the lowest final round of his career with an 8-under 63 that shattered the scoring record at Cog Hill and gave him a two-shot victory in the BMW Championship.
Woods took the lead for good with a 12-foot birdie on the 13th hole and kept his distance from Aaron Baddeley and Steve Stricker with a swing so solid that he missed only two fairways all weekend. Woods finished at 22-under 262, breaking by five shots the record he set four years ago at Cog Hill.
It also gave him a commanding lead with one week remaining in the FedEx Cup.
Woods goes to East Lake in Atlanta with a 3,133-point lead over Steve Stricker, who finished third at Cog Hill, and a 4,120-point margin over Phil Mickelson, who decided not to play this week.
Mickelson, the Deutsche Bank Championship winner Monday, will have to win to have any hopes of capturing the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize. If Stricker does not win at East Lake, Woods could win the cup by finishing second.
Only two other players -- Rory Sabbatini and K.J. Choi -- have a mathematical chance of winning the FedEx Cup.
All that mattered at the moment was winning at Cog Hill for the fourth time. It was Woods' sixth victory of the year, and the 60th in his 11 years on the PGA Tour. He earned $1.26 million to go over $9 million for the fourth time in his career.
Baddeley closed with a 66, while Stricker bogeyed his final hole for a 68 to finish four shots behind.
The biggest mystery about the Tour Championship is the course on which they play.
The tour left a two-page notice on players' lockers Sunday morning saying that record heat has severely damaged the greens at East Lake, forcing officials to cancel the pro-am round Wednesday and ban players from so much as setting foot on the greens until the first round on Thursday.
Players are still required to be at East Lake on Wednesday to do a clinic and spend time with the amateurs.
Stewart Cink, Tim Clark and Camilo Villegas all finished in the top 10 and earned enough points to move into the top 30 in the playoff standings and qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake.
The 30th spot went to British Open champion Padraig Harrington, who took this week off to recharge and was prepared to play a European tour event if he got bumped out. Luke Donald tried to recover from a 76 in the opening round, but his bogey-free 65 on Sunday left him two shots away from the points he needed to finish 30th.
Also getting knocked out of the top 30 were Jerry Kelly and Aaron Oberholser, who withdrew with hand and wrist injuries and said he would not have been able to play the Tour Championship even if he had made it.
It was the third straight week of compelling golf, a three-man race at sunny Cog Hill that was up for grabs until Wood seized control with his 50-foot birdie on the 12th, and a 20-foot birdie on the 16th that swirled around the cup before falling.
Woods took only 25 putts in the final round, five fewer than a third round in which he was disappointed with a 65.
"That's what has been missing all week," Woods said. "Today, I finally felt comfortable."
With his wife, Elin, following along outside the ropes, Woods ran off three straight birdies at the turn to shoot 32, but all that did was help him keep pace with Stricker and Baddeley.
Stricker, the hometown favorite who played at Illinois and grew up across the border in Wisconsin, made four straight birdies through the 10th hole to become the first to reach 19 under, giving him a one-shot lead over Baddeley.
Baddeley caught him on the 11th with a long bunker shot over a crook in the green to 6 feet for birdie.
Woods was in the group ahead and losing steam. He had to work for par on the easy 10th, and he had to settle for par when his chip from right of the green on the par-5 11th ran 15 feet away. His tee shot on the par-3 12th wasn't much better, and Woods hung his head and walked toward the green as it was still in flight.
But on a day of wild cheers, the loudest came on his 50-foot putt that dropped for birdie. That put him in a three-way tie for the lead, and Woods took off from there. He birdied the 13th from 20 feet, grazed the edge of the cup on the next hole, and nearly holed another 20-foot putt for eagle on the 15th.
Woods also shot 63 in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship last year. And while he is known as the best closer in golf, it was his fourth victory this year when starting the final round from behind.
Baddeley didn't give himself enough close chances, although he had a chance to tie Woods with a 20-foot eagle on the 15th that just missed. He failed to give himself a serious look at birdie the rest of the way, and the result was inevitable as Baddeley and Stricker brought up the rear.
Woods has won six times in the Chicago area -- four at Cog Hill, two in the PGA Championship at Medinah. The only place where he has had more victories is the San Diego area, where he has won seven times.