July 2, 2012 in Sports

Tiger Woods outduels Van Pelt down stretch for 3rd win of year

Doug Ferguson Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Tiger Woods poses with trophy after winning the AT&T National.
(Full-size photo)

BETHESDA, Md. – The flight of his shot into the 18th green was so pure that Tiger Woods immediately started walking and twirled his club, knowing that it effectively wrapped up another win at the AT&T National. Making it even more special was the sound of thousands of fans at Congressional to see it.

One day after spectators were kept away from the golf course because of debris from a violent wind storm, they returned Sunday in full force and got what they expected — Woods in his red shirt, outlasting Bo Van Pelt in a back-nine duel, and posing with another trophy.

“Yesterday was a silent day,” Woods said. “I think everyone saved up for today. What an atmosphere to play in front of.”

Woods closed with a 2-under 69, at one point going 41 holes without a bogey on a Congressional course that was tougher than when it held the U.S. Open last year, and won for the third time this year. It was the 74th win of his career, moving him past Jack Nicklaus into second place on the PGA Tour, eight short of Sam Snead’s record.

Not bad for a guy who only five months ago walked off the course at Doral with an injury to his left Achilles tendon.

“I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again,” Woods said.

He stayed at No. 4 in the world, but a couple of other rankings indicate how he is trending. Woods moved to the top of the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings for the first time since September 2009.

And this win puts him in a position to reclaim No. 1 over the final two majors of the year. The ranking is based on points over two years.

Three times on Sunday, Woods took the outright lead. The first two times, Van Pelt made a birdie to catch him. The tournament was decided on the last three holes.

Both players ran into trouble on the par-5 16th and came away with a bogey.

On the 17th, Van Pelt caught a flier from the first cut of rough and the ball shot over the green and near the grandstand, leaving him an impossible chip. He hit through the green and had to scramble to make bogey, and Woods took the outright lead for the third time all day — this time for good.

He made a 6-foot par putt, taking a one-shot lead to the 18th, and played it to perfection.

Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe, who had a one-shot lead going into the final round, didn’t make birdie and closed with a 77.

Adam Scott went out in 31 and was briefly tied for the lead until a few bogeys on the back nine. He had to settle for a 67, which put him alone in third at 5 under.

Billy Hurley, the Annapolis graduate who spent five years in the Navy, closed with a 72 and tied for fourth along with Robert Garrigus (70), Jhonattan Vegas (71) and Seung-yul Noh of South Korea, who had a 73.

Woods has three wins, all of them in a different manner.

He pulled away early at Bay Hill and played efficiently for a five-shot win; he rallied from four shots behind with an incredible chip-in late in the round and won the Memorial. This was a two-man duel he hasn’t experienced in America since he was on the losing end to Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship.

Woods delivered a made-for-TV shot on the 12th hole when his tee shot went left and close to a tree. He couldn’t follow through without hitting the tree, and he warned the gallery that the 9-iron might snap in half. Instead, the shaft glanced off the tree and bowed at impact, while the shot sailed toward the flag and settled 30 feet away.

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