Tiger Woods turned a Hunter into the hunted on Sunday, stalking his prey for several holes before pouncing on a rare birdie chance to win the National PGA by one stroke over Hunter Mahan.
World No. 1 Woods sank a tension-packed 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th hole to seize the lead, then added two routine pars to capture his 68th career title and third of the season in his final British Open tuneup.
“This golf course is not easy and we only have basically one real birdie chance coming in, which was 16,” Woods said. “At the very end it started going left and it was like, ‘Oh God just don’t lip out now.’ It went in.”
The 14-time major champion who doubled as tournament host shot a three-under par 67 final round to finish on 13-under par 267 at Congressional Country Club and claim the US$1 million top prize at the US$6 million event.
“It was kind of in Tiger’s court there,” Mahan said. “I’m proud of how I played.”
Mahan matched the 18-hole course record of eight-under 62 set in Thursday’s opening round by fellow American Anthony Kim to seize the clubhouse lead on 268 with Tiger still on the prowl and stalking Hunter across the back nine.
“I don’t know what golf course he was playing. I didn’t see a 62 out there,” Woods said. “He put so much pressure on us. We had to play really well. There was a lot of heat back there.”
Woods sent his tee shot at the 16th into the left rough, put his approach into the right greenside rough and left his chip 20 feet short of the cup. The 14-time major champion backed away from his putt after being disturbed by a noise, then rammed the ball into the bottom of the cup to reclaim the lead for good.
Woods, a winner for the 46th time in 49 US PGA events when leading after 54 holes, also won this year at Bay Hill and Memorial, each victory coming two weeks before a major championship. Woods shared sixth at the Masters and US Open but hopes to better that position two weeks at Turnberry, Scotland.
Mahan made three birdies on the front nine and had runs of three birdies in four holes to begin and end the back nine, taking his lone bogey at 14 and dropped a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th to intensify the pressure on Woods.
The week’s five-over par showing by Woods at the 489-yard 11th matched the worst hole for Woods in any non-major tournament in his career, a dubious mark set at Kapalua’s first hole in the 2002 Mercedes Championship.
Mahan, whose only US PGA title came at the 2007 Travelers Championship, shared fourth at last week’s Travelers and sixth two weeks ago at the US Open.
Kim was third on the all-American leaderboard, four strokes off the pace. Bryce Molder was fourth on 272 with US Open champion Lucas Glover and Brandt Snedeker fifth on 273.