Tiger Woods wins Bridgestone Invitational
AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Tiger Woods can’t wait to get to the PGA Championship.
Woods grabbed a big lead with a second-round 61 and then closed out the field with safe and smart even-par 70 on Sunday to roll to a seven-shot victory at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Next up? The year’s final major championship at Oak Hill.
“Do I want it any more? No, it’s the same,” said Woods, winless in his past 17 major championships. “Each and every major, I always want them. I’ve been successful 14 times, and hopefully next week it’ll be 15.”
That confidence is a product of his eighth win at the Bridgestone — matching the PGA Tour record he already shared for victories in a single tournament.
He grabbed a seven-shot lead with a stunning, career best-tying 61 on Friday and maintained it through a 68 on Saturday to arrive at 15-under 265.
On Sunday, he avoided any major mistakes and waited for a challenge that never came from an elite field.
“As blustery as it was, it was going to be really hard for someone to shoot 62 or 63,” Woods said.
“If I didn’t give any shots away and played my game and shot even par or better, I’d force these guys to go and shoot something super low on a golf course that wasn’t going to give it up under these conditions.”
The victory was Woods’ 79th on the PGA Tour, drawing him within three of Sam Snead’s record 82 triumphs.
“The total body of work is pretty good,” Woods said. “One of the things I’m proud of, obviously, is how many times I’ve won, plus won World Golf Championships and how many years I’ve won five or more tournaments in a season. What is it, like eight or nine times? Ten? That’s not bad, either.”
Lest anyone think he’ll have difficulty surpassing Snead’s total, consider that Woods is more than 10 years younger (he’s 37½) than Snead was when he won his 82nd and final event, the 1965 Greater Greensboro.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, who tied for second with Henrik Stenson, was a huge fan of Woods when he was a kid. He was asked if he liked seeing Woods dominate as he did a decade or so ago.
“When I was younger, I did,” Bradley said. “You know, I hate to sit here and go on and on about how good he is, but he is. It’s difficult because I really want to get up there and contend with him. But he’s just … this week he’s playing really well.”
Woods’ mastery at Firestone Country Club allowed him to again match Snead’s PGA Tour record for wins in an event.
Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.
Earlier this year, Woods won at Bay Hill for the eighth time. Woods has also won eight times at Torrey Pines, seven times in the Farmers Insurance and also in the 2008 U.S. Open.
As he walked to the scorer’s trailer to finalize his score, Woods scooped up 4-year-old son Charlie, who hugged him tightly as his father strode past the large gallery wildly cheering his landslide victory.
“This is the first win he’s ever been at,” Woods said. “That’s what makes it special for both of us.”
Daughter Sam was on hand when Woods won the U.S. Open in 2008, before his personal life imploded. Now Charlie will have some memories of dad in the winner’s circle.
“They always say, ‘Daddy, when are you going to win the tournament?’ It was a few years there, or a couple years, I hadn’t won anything,” Woods said, smiling. “‘Are you leading or not? That’s a stock question. ‘Not leading.’ ‘Well, are you going to start leading?’ ‘Well, I’m trying.'”
No one got within six shots all day of the world’s No. 1.
When he had a good shot at a pin, he took it. Otherwise, he took few, if any, risks.
He had 16 methodical pars, birdied the 10th hole, then offset that with a three-putt bogey at the 14th. But by then most of the field was thinking about catching flights to Rochester instead of catching Woods.
Bradley, who won a year ago when Jim Furyk double-bogeyed the 72nd hole, shot a 67 to get to 8 under along with Stenson, who had a 70 while playing with Woods.
“He kind of punctured this tournament on Friday,” Stenson said.
Tied for fourth were Cleveland-born Jason Dufner (71), Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and Zach Johnson (67) at 6 under.
Bill Haas and Chris Wood each shot a 71 and were at 5 under, with Martin Kaymer, who matched the day’s best round with a 66, at 4 under along with Furyk, Richard Sterne and Luke Donald.
For those betting Woods won’t win next week at Oak Hill, keep in mind that he has already won both the Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in the same year three times (2000, 2006, 2007).
Still, the odds do not favor him coming right back with another win. In the 19 times in which he has won his last start before a major, he’s only followed up with a win four times: 2000 U.S. Open (after winning The Memorial), 2001 Masters (Players), 2006 PGA (Buick) and 2007 PGA (Bridgestone).
Woods, whose fifth win this year gave him 10 such years in his career, also has won 18 World Golf Championship series events in just 42 starts.
In the two previous times he won the Bridgestone and then played in the PGA Championship, he finished first at Southern Hills in 2007 and then placed second — blowing a final-round lead to Y.E. Yang — in 2009 at Hazeltine.
He’s far from a lock next week, however, since he hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
But all eyes will still be on him.
Among those watching closely will be the defending champion.
“The second-round 61 was phenomenal,” 2012 PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy said. “He does well on every course he plays, but he comes back to a few courses on tour that he seems to really excel at.
“And, obviously, this is one of them.”
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.