Tiger Woods, who took any mystery out of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with his second-round 61, stuck to his risk-averse strategy on Sunday and walked away from Firestone with son Charlie clamped to his neck and his name etched on his 79th PGA Tour trophy.
With the rest of the field duking it out for second -- and to see how close any one of a number of stud golfers could get to the man in red and black -- Woods was content with letting them come to him. Indeed, on a windy day when Woods was confident no one would shoot in the low 60s, his scorecard epitomized a prevent defense: all pars on the front and a birdie and a bogey on the back nine.
"Today I was just conservative, just trying to make pars," Woods told Golf Channel’s David Feherty after carding an even-par 70 to finish the week at 15-under, seven shots better than Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson. "This was a perfect day to protect. The conditions were blustery, it was tough, and it was hard to shoot a low number but it was easy to shoot a number around par."
It’s a recipe that Woods, who’s now three tour wins shy of Sam Snead’s overall total of 82, believes will serve him well at Oak Hill, site of this week’s PGA Championship. It’s a course similar to the one Woods conquered last week, with its thick, lush rough. Though the greens, which Tiger did not fancy after a recent practice round, could cause problems for the world No. 1.
"It'll be interesting to see what they do with the greens, how much speed can they add to it and what's going to happen come Thursday," said Woods, who struggled mightily with the sluggish putting surfaces at Muirfield.
"I felt this week was ... a continuation of the British Open," he said. "I hit it really good there, I just didn't make anything after the first day. Once the speed started changing, I didn't adjust to it very well, and consequently I didn't win the tournament."
The difference last week was Woods’ "one hot putting day," he said. "The last two days I didn't really need to. I had a big lead and just had to make sure my speed was good and protect with pars."
But that was last week, Oak Hill is now. And despite the fact that Woods tallied his 79th PGA Tour win, fifth of the 2013 season and eighth at Firestone, and is, at this point, the run-away leader in the clubhouse for player of the year honors, the golfer himself will deem his season a failure if he fails to cadge that 15th major. As even casual Tiger followers know, he hasn’t won the big one since the 2008 U.S. Open.
"Yeah, I’m looking forward to it," Woods said about teeing it up in Rochester. "As far as wanting it more than any other, no, it's the same. Those are the events that we try and peak for and try and win ... Do I want it any more? No, it's the same. Each and every major, I always want them. I've been successful 14 times, and hopefully next week will be 15."
Only other time Tiger Woods won by 6+ shots the week before a major? 2007 Bridgestone. He won the PGA the next week.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) August 4, 2013
While Woods enters the event as the odds-on favorite after his dominating win at Firestone, major No. 15 is hardly a done deal, given his recent struggles on Saturday and Sunday at the majors. And, though he has won the Bridgestone and PGA Championships in the same year three times, he’s four for 19 in majors after winning his previous start.
There’ll be plenty of time, if need be, to recount Woods’ weekend woes. For now, here is Tiger Woods by the numbers following his triumph at Firestone:
- 79 -- Number of PGA Tour victories
- 47 -- Sam Snead’s age when he earned tour win No. 79 (Woods is 37)
- 8 -- Number of wins at Firestone
- 5 -- Number of tour wins so far in 2013
- 18 -- Number of World Golf Championship wins
- 61 -- Woods’ second-round score at Firestone, matching his career-best
- 10 -- Number of times Tiger has won at least five tour events in a year