Tiger Woods wins Zozo Championship

V Krishnaswamy Chiba (Japan) | Updated on October 28, 2019

Tiger Woods holds the winning trophy of the Zozo Championship, a PGA Tour event, at Inzai in Japan’s Chiba prefecture   -  REUTERS

He is three away from Jack Nicklaus’ 18 Majors, the most won by any golfer in history

Tiger Woods once again stares at the unknown. He probably knows more about the unknown than any other golfer.

But this time, it is not about the career that has been threatened by a dodgy knee or the troublesome back that had once made waking up from the bed tough. Nor is it about a personal crisis that took a heavy toll. This time it is about the territory beyond 82 PGA Tour wins.

Now that he has joined Sam Snead at one peak, he has one more to take care of — 18. He is three away from Jack Nicklaus’ 18 Majors, the most won by any golfer in history.

Meanwhile, Woods, the Captain for the US team for the President’s Cup, will have an easier time picking Woods, the player, as the Captain’s pick. We will know all that by the end of this week. But before that we get to see him in action once more at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

Bogey-Bogey-Bogey is no way to start a tournament, let alone win it, as he did at the Zozo Championship. Clawing back from that abyss, he took a share of the first round lead holing nine birdies in last 14 holes for a 64. Then nature’s fury washed away play on Friday. So bad was it that the PGA decided to keep spectators and ticket holders off the course for Saturday following Friday’s downpour that brought in six inches of rain and played havoc with life around Chiba, Tokyo, and elsewhere.

With spectators off the course on Saturday, it was like a silent movie, which needed someone to superimpose applause on it. There were times when he drilled a perfect iron or drained a great putt, but there was little applause except from a 100-odd followers, including media. Cheers, when they did come, came from the other side of the fence, at the back of the fourth tee box. Tiger rewarded them with a smile and a look in their direction. Yet he compiled another 64 and it took two clear of the field.

On Sunday, even though the PGA had decided they would carry on into Monday, players were to play till it became dark. Woods played 29 holes, 18 from the third round where he shot 66 and began his final round where he was two-under through 11 when play stopped due to darkness.

Trademark of woods

When the final round began, Woods changed from his blue shirt to red shirt for the final round. And when he re-appeared on Monday, he needed yet another red-and-black ensemble, a trademark of Woods, in the final rounds.

Travel plans had already changed and history books were brought out as Woods and the other returned to Accordia Golf and Country Club. He was three clear of local hero Hideki Matsuyama, whose huge putt in approaching darkness on the 12thgreen left a thin sliver of light peeking in through the crack for the rest of the field.

Woods admitted that 12thwould not be the easiest of holes to come back and start with to finish off the tournament. “Starting off on the 12th hole is not easy. It's one of the hardest par 4s on the whole golf course, it’s 490 yards,” Woods had said. “It’s going to be cool tomorrow morning, so the hole’s going to play really long, so it’s important that I get off to a good start. It’s a hard pin tomorrow over in the top right.”

How right he was. Woods’ drive went to the right and from there he did not have the best second shot, which landed into a bunker. He found the green, but had a lengthy par putt and he missed. The gap was down to two.

Woods had a 10-foot birdie chance on 13th, but did not give enough speed. The good news was Matsuyama, too, was not making a move.

Playing ahead of Woods, the local hero had a three-foot putt for birdie on Par-5 15th, but missed it.

On 14th Woods went into rough after a perfect drive and chopped from there to 20 feet. He found the perfect line, stroked the ball and walked it in. It was again three shots between him and Matsuyama.

After two great shots on the 15th, Woods burnt the edge of the cup but did not fall. Matsuyama fought back with a long birdie on 16thand the gap was back to two.

Woods parred the 16thand Matsuyama could not get his putt to drop on 17th. He ran out of holes. Woods added a par on 17th.

So, Matsuyama knew he needed an eagle or at least a birdie to have an outside chance while hoping for a mistake from Woods.

With his second shot in fairway bunker Matsuyama needed to hole from there, but his 3-Wood landed him in a greenside bunker and the 40-foot birdie try fell short. A par and he finished at 16-under.

Woods did not need the driver on 18thbut still got to the middle of the fairway from where he went into a greenside bunker, close to the lip. Woods stayed focussed, as he always does, even when history beckons. He came out to 12 feet. He could three putt and still win, but he needed just one stroke. A birdie and a card of 67 and the total 19-under. The result - a three-shot win.

Eighty-two going on 18. From having most PGA wins, he needs three more Majors to have most Majors. That figure has never looked more approachable than it does now.

He is indeed BACK.

Published on October 28, 2019

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