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Tiger Woods won the Memorial Tournament to tie event host Jack Nicklaus for the second-most titles on golf’s U.S. PGA Tour.
“To do it here and have him here -- actually right next to me right now -- all that means something to us as players and it’s awfully special for me,” Woods told reporters at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday.
Woods, 36, birdied three of the final four holes, the highlight of which was a flop shot at the par-3 16th that gave him a share of the lead. Nicklaus, 72, said it was the best shot he’d ever seen under the circumstances.
Woods shot a 5-under-par 67 -- matching the best score of the final round -- to finish with a four-round total of 9-under- par 279. Andres Romero of Argentina and Rory Sabbatini from South Africa tied for second place at 7-under.
Woods’s fifth win at the Memorial lifts him to 73 titles on tour, nine fewer than Sam Snead. Woods is now the 6-1 favorite at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino’s sports book to win this month’s U.S. Open, moving from 15-1 a week ago. He said his form gives him a good chance of collecting a fourth U.S. Open win and 15th major title at the June 14-17 tournament.
“Every shot was exactly the same -- the shape, the trajectory, the distance control, I had it all,” said Woods, who hasn’t won a major since his third U.S. Open triumph in 2008. “That was fun to have when I needed it.”
Woods, who trailed third-round leader Spencer Levin by four shots at the start of play, moved into a share of the lead with Sabbatini with his birdie at the par-3 16th.
From deep rough behind the green and facing water on the far side of the putting surface, Woods took a full swing with a wedge and sent his ball high into the air. It flopped softly to the grass and trickled down the slope into the hole.
“What a shot,” record 18-time major champion Nicklaus told reporters. “I don’t think under the circumstances I’ve ever seen a better shot.”
As the crowd erupted, Woods delivered two of his trademark fist pumps and roared his approval. Later, he said that holing it was a bonus.
“I was trying to get it inside eight or 10 feet,” said Woods. “If the lie wasn’t that bad then I wouldn’t have been worried about the water and I would have tried to get it really close.”
Woods took the lead for good minutes later as Sabbatini had a bogey from a greenside sand trap at the 16th.
Woods closed his round with a 9-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, raising his putter above his head just before his ball fell into the cup and then walking off the green to accept Nicklaus’s congratulations. He also won $1.12 million.
“He had to rub it in my face right here, didn’t he?” Nicklaus said, laughing. “No, if he’s going to do it, as he’s obviously going to, I’d like to see it happen here.”
Woods’s victories this year have come at events hosted by two of the most famous golfers in history. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 25 for a seventh time to end a winless run on the tour that stretched back to September 2009.
His latest success marks the 13th time Woods has won at least twice in a season on the PGA Tour and fourth time he’s won Palmer’s and Nicklaus’s events in the same year.
Woods will climb to fourth from ninth in the Official World Golf Ranking.
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