BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — The images of Tiger Woods, dressed in his red shirt and raising both arms on the 18th green after another victory, are no longer highlights from years gone by.
When he outlasted Bo Van Pelt in a tense duel on the back-nine on July 1 at Congressional, Woods won for third time in his last seven tournaments dating to the late March. He still hasn’t figured out the majors this year, though he has two more remaining.
And while winning the AT&T National kept him at No. 4 in the world, he is starting to be looked upon the way he once was.
“I think he’s the only guy to win three tournaments on tour this year, is that correct?” Van Pelt said. “On three different courses…and he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”
Woods closed with a 2-under 69, making only one bogey in his final 44 holes on a course that was tougher than it was for the U.S. Open last year. Van Pelt had him in trouble late in the round, but only briefly, and Woods effectively pulled away on the last two holes by letting his opponents get the bad breaks and make the bogeys.
He now has 74 wins on the PGA Tour, moving past Jack Nicklaus into second place, leaving him eight wins away from the record held by Sam Snead. Perhaps it’s only fitting that Woods now heads to The Greenbrier Classic, where Snead was the first head professional.
Woods at least moved to No. 1 in two other categories – the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup standings, for the first time since September 2009.
At this rate, Woods is more likely to get to Snead’s record of 82 tour wins than the record that means the most to him – the 18 majors won by Nicklaus. Woods has been stuck on 14 since 2008 when he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines on a shattered left leg.
“It feels great to get to 74 wins and obviously pass Jack,” Woods said. “I did it at 36 years old, and it’s something I’m very proud of.”
Not bad for a guy who only four months ago walked off the course at Doral with another injury to his left Achilles tendon. He returned two weeks later and won Bay Hill, and off he went.
“I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again,” Woods said.
His latest win took a lot of effort. It came down to Woods and Van Pelt, who have known each other since junior golf.
Three times, Woods made birdie putts to take the lead. Three times, Van Pelt answered him.
Woods with a one-shot lead on the 18th, playing in control as he had for so much of the day, is tough to beat. He hit a fade off the tee. He hit a draw with a 9-iron into the green. He won.