Woods earns first PGA wins since 2013


By Doug Ferguson - AP Golf Writer



Tiger Woods tries to maintain his composure while getting choked up being interviewed after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Tiger Woods tries to maintain his composure while getting choked up being interviewed after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)


Tiger Woods celebrates after picking up his putt for par on the 18th green to win the final round of the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)


Tiger Woods stands on the 18th green after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)


ATLANTA (AP) — A timeline between the 79th and 80th victories on the PGA Tour for Tiger Woods:

Aug. 4, 2013 — Wins the Bridgestone Invitational for his 18th World Golf Championship title and 79th victory on the PGA Tour.

March 31, 2014 — Has back surgery and announces he will miss the Masters for the first time.

June 26, 2014 — Returns to the PGA Tour and misses the cut at the Quicken Loans National.

Aug. 8, 2014 — Misses the cut in the PGA Championship and says he will take the rest of the year off, including the Ryder Cup, to get healthy.

Dec. 7, 2014 — Returns at the Hero World Challenge and ties for last in an 18-man field at Isleworth, his home course, 26 shots out of the lead.

Feb. 1, 2015 — Looking like an amateur with his short game, shoots 82 in the Phoenix Open to miss the cut. A week later at Torrey Pines, withdraws after 11 holes and says he could never get his glutes activated.

Feb. 11, 2015 — Announces he is taking time off to work on his game, saying that “my play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf.”

April 9, 2015 — Returns at the Masters, his chipping issues gone, and ties for 17th.

June 6, 2015 — Shoots an 85 in the third round of the Memorial, his highest score as a professional.

Aug. 14, 2015 — Misses the cut in his third straight major at the PGA Championship.

Aug. 23, 2015 — After sharing the 36-hole lead, ties for 10th in the Wyndham Championship and fails for the first time to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs when playing at least 10 times on the PGA Tour.

Sept. 16, 2015 — Has a second back surgery.

Oct. 28, 2015 — Has a third procedure on his back.

Dec. 1, 2015 — In a somber press conference at his Hero World Challenge, Woods says of his future, “So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know.” He says he wants to play again and anything else he achieves will be “gravy.”

Dec. 4, 2016 — Returns to competition at the Hero World Challenge, makes 24 birdies and finishes 15th in an 18-man field, 14 shots behind.

Jan. 27, 2017 — Makes first PGA Tour start since the Wyndham Championship in 2015 and misses the cut at Torrey Pines.

Feb. 3, 2017 — After opening with a 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic in calm conditions, withdraws before the start of the second round because of back spasms.

April 19, 2017 — Has a fourth surgery, this one to fuse his lower back.

May 30, 2017 — Woods is arrested and briefly jailed in Jupiter, Florida, on suspicion of DUI. Police find him asleep behind the wheel of his car in the early morning with the engine running. He attributes it to a bad combination of pain medication.

Sept. 27, 2017 — A vice captain at the Presidents Cup, Woods says he has no idea what his future holds because he’s only hitting 60-yard shots.

Oct. 7-23, 2017 — Woods posts three videos on Instagram of a smooth iron swing, a driver and his stinger.

Oct. 27, 2017 — Woods pleads guilty to reckless driving and agrees to enter a diversion program. Prosecutors drop the DUI charge under the plea agreement.

Dec. 3, 2017 — Returns to competition at the Hero World Challenge, posts three rounds in the 60s and ties for ninth against an 18-man field, 10 shots behind.

Jan. 28, 2018 — In his return to the PGA Tour, makes the cut on the number and ties for 23rd at Torrey Pines.

Feb. 20, 2018 — Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk announces Woods as one of his vice captains, says Woods still wants to make the team.

March 11, 2018 — Before enormous crowds at Innisbrook, makes par on the 18th hole to finish one shot out of the lead at the Valspar Championship.

March 18, 2018 — One shot behind in the final round at Bay Hill, yanks tee shot out-of-bounds on the 16th hole and ties for fifth.

July 22, 2018 — Takes the lead in the final round of the British Open, only to make double bogey on the 12th hole and finish in a tie for sixth.

Aug. 12, 2018 — Closes with a 64, his lowest final round ever in a major, and is runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship.

Sept. 4, 2018 — Announced as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, his first playing appearance since 2012.

Sept. 23, 2018 — Wins the Tour Championship for his 80th career victory on the PGA Tour.

ATLANTA (AP) — Tiger Woods, in his Sunday red shirt, both arms raised in victory on the 18th green.

For so many years, the scene was familiar.

This time, it was surreal.

“I can’t believe I pulled this off,” Woods said Sunday during the trophy presentation at the Tour Championship, where he gave thousands of delirious fans at East Lake, and millions more around the world, what they wanted to see, and what they thought they might never see again.

And at that moment, Woods was overcome with emotion and paused.

After two back surgeries six weeks apart, he couldn’t lie down, sit or walk without pain. Golf was the least of his concerns, so much that he once said anything else he achieved would be “gravy.”

One year ago, while recovering from a fourth back surgery, he still had no idea if he could come back to the highest level of golf.

“Just to be able to compete and play again this year, that’s a hell of a comeback,” he said.

Woods delivered the perfect ending to his amazing return from back surgeries with a performance out of the past. He left the competition feeling hopeless as he built a five-shot lead early and then hung on for a 1-over 71 and a two-shot victory over Billy Horschel.

It was the 80th victory of his PGA Tour, two short of the career record held by Sam Snead that is now very much in play. And it was his first victory in more than five years, dating to the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational.

And that brought a new version of Tigermania.

After he hit his second shot to the par-5 18th safely in a bunker in front of the green, the crowd came through the ropes and followed behind in a chaotic celebration. It was like that when he walked from the left side of the 18th fairway at the 1997 Masters he won by 12. It was reminiscent of that walk up the 18th fairway later that summer at the Western Open in Chicago.

This was pure pandemonium. Fans chased after any inch of grass they could find to watch the ending.

“I didn’t want to get run over,” Woods said with a laugh.

This felt just as big as a major, maybe better considering where Woods had been.

Several players, from Zach Johnson to Rickie Fowler to Horschel, waited to greet him. It was Johnson who unveiled red shirts at the Ryder Cup two years ago in the team room that said, “Make Tiger Great Again.”

“They knew what I was struggling with,” Woods said. “It was special to see them.”

Woods played only one PGA Tour event over two seasons because of his back. Off the golf course, he had to overcome the embarrassment of a DUI arrest in the early morning of Memorial Day in 2017 when he was found asleep at the wheel, later found to have a concoction of pain medication in his system.

He was becoming a legend on in video highlights.

And then he brought it back to life this year, especially the last four days at East Lake. The players who have turns at No. 1 during his absence caught the full brunt of Woods in control. McIlroy faded early. Justin Rose faded late.

All that was left was the 42-year-old Woods in that red shirt, blazing brighter than ever, and a smile he couldn’t shake walking up the 18th to collect another trophy.

“The 80 mark is a big number,” he said. “It’s a pretty damned good feeling.”

He finished at 11-under 269 and won $1.62 million, along with a $3 million bonus for finishing second in the FedEx Cup.

The only disappointment — a minor one under the circumstances — was realizing as he came down the 18th that Rose had made birdie to finish in a three-way tie for fourth, which gave him the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.

Without that birdie, Woods would have won his third FedEx Cup title after starting at No. 20 going into the Tour Championship.

“Congrats, Rosie,” Woods told him. “World No. 1, hell of a season.”

Actually, former world No. 1 for Rose. His four bogeys over the last 10 holes cost him the No. 1 ranking back to Dustin Johnson, who shot 67 and finished third.

But this wasn’t about the FedEx Cup or even the world ranking.

This is Tiger’s big day, and nothing was going to change it.

Woods had never lost when leading by three shots or more going into the final round. That was when he was regularly winning multiple times every season, compiling trophies at a rate never before seen in golf.

Was anything different having gone more than five years without winning?

Rose had said it was a bit more unknown, and “there’s a lot on it for him” as well as everyone else.

But this was still Woods’ arena. The walk from the putting green snakes some 80 yards across the road and through a gallery, and everyone could hear him coming from the procession of cheering. And within the opening hour, the Tour Championship had that inevitable feeling.

No one brings excitement like Woods, even when he plays so good and so smart that he eliminates any potential for drama.

The buzz was endless. A couple of teenagers climbed into a tree to see him made a 10-foot birdie on the first hole. When the putt dropped and cheers died, there was a wild sprint some 200 yards up the hill as fans tried to get into position for the next shot. He tapped in for par, and another stampede ensued to line the third fairway.

On and on it went. No one wanted to miss a shot.

A year ago, there was no guarantee anyone would see much of Woods, much less Woods winning.

He’s back again. This victory, his first since the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in August 2013 — 1,876 days, to be exact — brought him to No. 13 in the world. Not bad for a 42-year-old with four back surgeries who returned to competition in December at No. 1,199 in the world.

The next stop for Woods is to board a plane with the rest of his U.S. teammates for France and the Ryder Cup.

After that?

There’s no telling.

___

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Tiger Woods tries to maintain his composure while getting choked up being interviewed after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2018/09/web1_121422033-a3e09d8d12fd4ce381e92a1562936e4a.jpgTiger Woods tries to maintain his composure while getting choked up being interviewed after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Tiger Woods celebrates after picking up his putt for par on the 18th green to win the final round of the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2018/09/web1_121422033-8d047308b662449fa3142489d5ae567c.jpgTiger Woods celebrates after picking up his putt for par on the 18th green to win the final round of the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Tiger Woods stands on the 18th green after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2018/09/web1_121422033-1c62cc1f9e1b468091b65b0caa5744a1.jpgTiger Woods stands on the 18th green after winning the Tour Championship golf tournament Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

By Doug Ferguson

AP Golf Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — A timeline between the 79th and 80th victories on the PGA Tour for Tiger Woods:

Aug. 4, 2013 — Wins the Bridgestone Invitational for his 18th World Golf Championship title and 79th victory on the PGA Tour.

March 31, 2014 — Has back surgery and announces he will miss the Masters for the first time.

June 26, 2014 — Returns to the PGA Tour and misses the cut at the Quicken Loans National.

Aug. 8, 2014 — Misses the cut in the PGA Championship and says he will take the rest of the year off, including the Ryder Cup, to get healthy.

Dec. 7, 2014 — Returns at the Hero World Challenge and ties for last in an 18-man field at Isleworth, his home course, 26 shots out of the lead.

Feb. 1, 2015 — Looking like an amateur with his short game, shoots 82 in the Phoenix Open to miss the cut. A week later at Torrey Pines, withdraws after 11 holes and says he could never get his glutes activated.

Feb. 11, 2015 — Announces he is taking time off to work on his game, saying that “my play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf.”

April 9, 2015 — Returns at the Masters, his chipping issues gone, and ties for 17th.

June 6, 2015 — Shoots an 85 in the third round of the Memorial, his highest score as a professional.

Aug. 14, 2015 — Misses the cut in his third straight major at the PGA Championship.

Aug. 23, 2015 — After sharing the 36-hole lead, ties for 10th in the Wyndham Championship and fails for the first time to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs when playing at least 10 times on the PGA Tour.

Sept. 16, 2015 — Has a second back surgery.

Oct. 28, 2015 — Has a third procedure on his back.

Dec. 1, 2015 — In a somber press conference at his Hero World Challenge, Woods says of his future, “So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know.” He says he wants to play again and anything else he achieves will be “gravy.”

Dec. 4, 2016 — Returns to competition at the Hero World Challenge, makes 24 birdies and finishes 15th in an 18-man field, 14 shots behind.

Jan. 27, 2017 — Makes first PGA Tour start since the Wyndham Championship in 2015 and misses the cut at Torrey Pines.

Feb. 3, 2017 — After opening with a 77 at the Dubai Desert Classic in calm conditions, withdraws before the start of the second round because of back spasms.

April 19, 2017 — Has a fourth surgery, this one to fuse his lower back.

May 30, 2017 — Woods is arrested and briefly jailed in Jupiter, Florida, on suspicion of DUI. Police find him asleep behind the wheel of his car in the early morning with the engine running. He attributes it to a bad combination of pain medication.

Sept. 27, 2017 — A vice captain at the Presidents Cup, Woods says he has no idea what his future holds because he’s only hitting 60-yard shots.

Oct. 7-23, 2017 — Woods posts three videos on Instagram of a smooth iron swing, a driver and his stinger.

Oct. 27, 2017 — Woods pleads guilty to reckless driving and agrees to enter a diversion program. Prosecutors drop the DUI charge under the plea agreement.

Dec. 3, 2017 — Returns to competition at the Hero World Challenge, posts three rounds in the 60s and ties for ninth against an 18-man field, 10 shots behind.

Jan. 28, 2018 — In his return to the PGA Tour, makes the cut on the number and ties for 23rd at Torrey Pines.

Feb. 20, 2018 — Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk announces Woods as one of his vice captains, says Woods still wants to make the team.

March 11, 2018 — Before enormous crowds at Innisbrook, makes par on the 18th hole to finish one shot out of the lead at the Valspar Championship.

March 18, 2018 — One shot behind in the final round at Bay Hill, yanks tee shot out-of-bounds on the 16th hole and ties for fifth.

July 22, 2018 — Takes the lead in the final round of the British Open, only to make double bogey on the 12th hole and finish in a tie for sixth.

Aug. 12, 2018 — Closes with a 64, his lowest final round ever in a major, and is runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship.

Sept. 4, 2018 — Announced as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, his first playing appearance since 2012.

Sept. 23, 2018 — Wins the Tour Championship for his 80th career victory on the PGA Tour.