Comeback Complete: Tiger Woods Wins Tour Championship for 80th PGA Tour Victory

Daniel Rapaport
Sports Illustrated
Comeback Complete: Tiger Woods Wins Tour Championship for 80th PGA Tour Victory
Comeback Complete: Tiger Woods Wins Tour Championship for 80th PGA Tour Victory

The comeback is complete: Tiger Woods is a winner once again.

Woods picked up his 80th career PGA Tour victory but first since 2013 on Sunday, shooting a one-over 71 to finish at 11 under and win the Tour Championship by two shots over Billy Horschel.

With the victory, Woods will finish second in the FedEx Cup standings behind world No. 1 Justin Rose, who birdied 18 to finish in a tie for fourth and win the $10 million Cup grand prize. Woods will receive $3 million for second place.

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The win puts an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable comeback from Woods, who had spinal fusion surgery last April and was arrested with five drugs in his system one month later. Roughly this time last year, Woods said at the Presidents Cup that he wasn’t sure if he’d ever compete on Tour again. Now he has picked up a win in the final event of the season and will move into the top 15 in the world rankings on Monday.

"I had a hard time not crying on the last hole," Woods said after the round.

Woods started the day with a three-shot lead over Rose and Rory McIlroy, the latter of whom fell out of contention while playing alongside Woods on Sunday. He birdied the first hole and pushed his lead to five on the front nine by finding fairways and greens and shooting a one-under 34 on the front nine.

After a birdie on 13, Woods had a five-shot lead with just five to play, but he would bogey 15 and 16, and his advantage shrunk to two. Woods got up-and-down for par on 17 to preserve the two-shot lead coming to the par-5 18th, and the win was virtually clinched when he smashed a drive right down the center at the finishing hole.

As he walked up the green after knocking his second into a greenside bunker, scores of fans followed right behind him in an iconic spectacle.

Woods then blasted out to six feet and two-putted to seal his first win in 1,876 days. A fitting finish. He paused for a moment after sinking the final putt before raising his arms in triumph.

Below is a hole-by-hole recap of the round, including highlights and analysis.

Hole 18, par 5 - Par, +1 for day, -11 for tournament

Woods is a winner again! He split the fairway with his drive and let out a big smile after that. He would knock his second into a greenside bunker, blasted out to six feet and two-putted for the win.

Hole 17, par 4 - Par, +1 for day, -11 for tournament

Absolutely massive par save. Tiger missed left with a 3-wood again and hacked a wedge over the green. He was fortunate to find some trampled-down rough and played a nice chip to about four feet. Dead-center with the par effort and he'll head to 18 needing a bogey or better for the win.

Hole 16, par 4 - Bogey, +1 for day, -11 for tournament

Well, this is getting more interesting than Woods would like. He tugged a 3-wood into thick rough and opted to hack it out with a wedge and try to make par the hard way. His third was on line but landed long and was fortunate to spin back out of the thick stuff onto the fringe. His par effort wouldn't go and it's his second straight bogey, and now the lead is down to two with two to play.

Hole 15, par 3 - Bogey, E for day, -12 for tournament

Really lucky not to find the water, as he missed short and right of the par 3. That could have been wet for the same price. He drew a good lie in the rough, however, and was able to play a bump-and-run to about nine feet. Couldn't get the par putt to fall and the lead is down to three, as Billy Horschel has posted nine under.

Hole 14, par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

The 14th is the longest par 4 on the course at roughly 530 yards, so it's aboslutely imperative to hit the fairway if you're going to make par. Woods did exactly that, peeling a cut that found the right side of the short grass. From there he hit a laser long iron to about 15 feet before the putt went begging by on the left side. Stress-free pars will suffice right now.

Hole 13, par 4 - Birdie, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

A textbook birdie: driver down the center, wedge to 13 feet and a putt right in the middle of the cup. The lead is now back up to five—Billy Horschel is in second at eight under—and this tournament is very much his to lose.

Hole 12, par 4 - Par, E for day, -12 for tournament

Tiger found the fairway with a cut 3-wood and hit a nice wedge to about eight feet, but the birdie effort wasn't his best. It was left to right and he didn't give it enough pace, missing on the low side.

It's a bit of a missed opportunity, but six more pars will mean win No. 80.

Hole 11, par 3 - Par, E for day, -12 for tournament

Just what he needed after the first bogey of the day. A really solid mid-iron into the middle of the par 3 green, which left a speedy putt down the hill. The birdie putt was left the whole way and rolled out to about three feet, but he brushed that in without incident. The lead is back to five after a Rose bogey.

Hole 10, par 4 - Bogey, E for day, -12 for tournament

First bogey of the day comes after a wayward right drive forced Tiger to punch out with his second. The punch out rolled out a bit too far into the first cut and he didn't judge the distance well on his third from 77 yards, hitting it 25 feet past the hole. Two putts from there and it's his first droped shot, and the lead is trimmed to four.

Hole 9, par 3 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Tiger hit a long-iron to the middle of the green on this 235-yard par 3. He liked that one and picked up the tee early. A nice effort from 35 feet rolls out to tap-in range, and that's now eight straight pars after the opening birdie. His lead, which was three at the beginning of the day, is now 5. Nine more holes to go...

Hole 8, par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

There's water all along the left side of 8, so it's no surprise that Tiger bailed out right into a fairway bunker. He was able to get his second onto the front portion of the green and two putted from abouot 50 feet to keep the round bogey-free. Onward...

Hole 7, par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Tiger continues to find fairways—he's hit five of the first six—and hit an approach right at the flag, but it rolled out to about 20 feet past the hole. Another birdie effort that looked on line but finished about a foot short for another stress-free par.

Through seven holes, he's been solid as can be: hitting fairways and greens and avoiding bogeys. Perfect gameplan when you have a big lead like this. It's almost like he's done this before...

Hole 6, par 5 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Bit of a missed opportunity, especially after Tiger ripped one down the middle and had just 215 into the par 5. He pulled his second shot significantly, as he was aiming toward the center of the green but hit a smother hook long and a bit left of the flag. It nestled way down in rough and he basically chunked his third, leaving it on the fringe. He left his long birdie effort short and did well to hole a four-footer for par.

Pars aren't going to hurt Tiger too much right now—his lead is still five—but he'd be the first to tell you that he'd expect himself to make birdie from where he was off the tee.

Hole 5, par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Tiger spoke after yesterday's round about how the rest of the field would have to come chase him, and that he could make it very difficult for them by keeping a clean card. He's doing exactly that, finding yet another fairway and giving himself a good luck at birdie after hitting wedge to about 15 feet. The putt had a chance but missed just barely to the left, prompting a reaction of surprise. Another par with a par 5 coming up next.

Hole 4, par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Important par save after he missed the fairway to the right, drawing a gnarly lie in the Bermuda rough. He tried to muscle an iron from 170ish to the green but it came out dead, finding a bunker short and right of the green. It was about a 30-yard bunker shot and he splashed out to about 10 feet, then made his par effort after McIlroy missed a par putt of similar length. Really good save.

His lead remains four over Justin Rose, but he now holds a five-shot advantage over McIlroy.

Hole 3, par 4 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Tiger went with iron off the tee to play for position and executed it perfectly, finding the center of the short grass. From about 125 he went with sand wedge, flying it right over a front pin to about 20 feet. The pin was tucked right over a bunker, and both Woods and McIlroy played conservatively past the pin. It left a huge left-to-right breaker for birdie—like, 10 feet of break—and it ran out of steam short of the hole. No issues with the par putt and it's a one-under start after three holes.

Hole 2, par 3 - Par, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Iron to the center of the green on this 200-yard par 4, leaving about 40 feet for birdie. The putt was on line but finished a few rolls short, leaving a stress-free tap-in for par.

Hole 1, par 4 - Birdie, -1 for day, -13 for tournament

Ideal start. Tiger went with driver off the tee and picked up the tee really quickly as it was right down the center. His approach was right at the flag and finished just 10 feet from the hole. He walked in the birdie effort. Couple the birdie with McIlroy's par and Tiger's lead is now four.

Couldn't have asked for a better start.

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