Tiger Woods used a birdie-birdie finish to beat 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson by one stroke in the Chevron World Challenge. It was Woods' first tournament victory since November 2009.
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — After going more than two years and 26 tournaments without a victory, and after so much turmoil in his personal life and with his golf game, Tiger Woods stood over a 6-foot birdie putt Sunday that would clinch the Chevron World Challenge. He felt as though nothing had changed.
Finally, the outcome was familiar, too.
Woods made the putt to cap a birdie-birdie finish at Sherwood Country Club, close with a 3-under-par 69 and beat 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson by one stroke. The victory ended a drought that lasted 749 days, and might signal a change Woods is on his way back.
The 14-time major champion swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.
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Relief? Satisfaction? Vindication?
“It just feels awesome, whatever it is,” the 35-year-old Woods said.
Trailing by one shot with two holes to play, Woods came up with two clutch putts. He holed a 15-footer for a birdie on the par-3 17th to tie Johnson and hit a 9-iron from 158 yards that landed on a ridge behind the 18th hole and rolled down to 6 feet.
“I’ve been in contention twice this year, which is not very often,” Woods said. “So that’s my third time with a chance to win it. I pulled it off this time.”
It was his 83rd victory worldwide in tournaments that award ranking points, but his first since he won the Australian Masters on Nov. 15, 2009, back when he looked as if he would rule golf for as long as he played.
But he crashed his vehicle into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home on Nov. 26, 2009, and shocking revelations of extramarital affairs began to emerge, which shattered his image, led to a divorce and cost him several major sponsors. Since then, he has changed swing coaches, caddies and endured more injuries, causing him to miss two majors and fail to make the cut in another.
The Chevron World Challenge is not a regular PGA Tour event and has a field of 18 players. Woods, the host of the tournament that benefits his charities, won it for the fifth time and donated the $1.2 million first-place share to his foundation.
Once the perennial No. 1-ranked player, Woods had dropped to 52nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. But he has resembled the Woods of old more often lately and is expected to move to No. 21 in the world.
“When I was coming down the stretch there, I felt so comfortable,” he said. “When the pressure was on the last two holes, I hit three of the best shots I hit all week.”
Woods is scheduled to open next season at a tournament in Abu Dhabi in late January but said he first wants “to shut it down for a couple weeks and just kind of unwind.”
• Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland rallied to win the Hong Kong Open, holing out from a greenside bunker on the final hole for a 5-under 65 and a two-stroke victory.
The 22-year-old U.S. Open winner was three strokes behind Alvaro Quiros of Spain entering the final round at Hong Kong Country Club. McIlroy finished at 12-under 268.
France’s Gregory Havret (65) finished second. Quiros (73) tied for seventh place.
• Lee Westwood of England won the Nedbank Golf Challenge for the second consecutive year, closing with a 1-over 73 for a two-stroke victory over Robert Karlsson of Sweden in Sun City, South Africa.
Westwood, seven strokes ahead after shooting a 62 Saturday, had a 15-under 273 total. He earned $1.25 million in the 12-player event. Karlsson closed with a 68.
• Ex-Washington Huskies player Richard H. Lee shot a 7-under 65 to move into a tie for 34th place entering the final round of the 108-hole PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in La Quinta, Calif.
The top 25 players and ties after Monday’s finale will earn PGA Tour cards.