Tiger Woods has completed a historic performance at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.
Woods tied Sam Snead’s record for most PGA TOUR victories by winning the first TOUR event to be held in Japan. The victory in Japan was the 82nd victory of Woods’ storied career.
“On behalf of the PGA TOUR, I would like to congratulate Tiger Woods for tying Sam Snead’s all-time PGA TOUR victories record of 82 at the inaugural ZOZO Championship,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Today, we celebrate both Tiger and Sam Snead as they share a record that, given how difficult it is to win just once on the PGA TOUR, should sit squarely alongside the greatest accomplishments in sporting history. Tiger has inspired us throughout his career with his talent, passion and the ability to shine in big moments, and he continues to defy even the most outsized expectations with performances like we saw this week. Our fans certainly have a lot to look forward to in the coming season as Tiger sets his sights on win No. 83 – and more, I would suspect — competing against many of the players he helped inspire along the way.”
Woods held off home favorite Hideki Matsuyama to win his first start of the season and first since having arthroscopic knee surgery in August. Woods has now won three of his past 14 starts.
Woods became the first person in the ShotLink era (since 2003) to win after making bogey on his first three holes. He birdied nine of his next 15 holes to shoot 64 and share the first-round lead with Gary Woodland. After Friday’s play was washed away by torrential rains, Woods shot a second consecutive 64 to take the halfway lead.
A third-round 66 gave Woods a three-shot lead after 54 holes. Woods has never lost when leading by three or more shots after 54 holes, winning all 25 times he’s been in that position. His 194 total was the third-lowest 54-hole score of his career.
Woods still had a three-shot lead when play was called Sunday evening because of darkness. He had to complete seven holes Monday morning
It was worth the wait.
SUNDAY’S HOLE-BY-HOLE BREAKDOWN
No. 12 (par 4, 490 yards)
After a relaxed warm-up, Tiger Woods struts out on the course looking ominous in black and red. First he had to pay courtesy and watch playing partner Gary Woodland finish up on the 11th green. He looks more than ready to navigate these last seven holes to make it an incredible 82 PGA TOUR wins which will have him join Sam Snead with the most of all time.
Woods is still three shots ahead of Hideki Matsuyama, likely the only player who has any chance to play spoiler. His famous final-round red shirt is there under a black vest. Woods warmed up in a long sleeve sweater to stay as warm as possibl (you can never be too careful with a fused back.). Yesterday Woods talked about how it will be tough to start on such a tough hole.
“Starting off on the 12th hole is not easy. It’s one of the hardest par 4s on the hole golf course, it’s 490 yards,” Woods said. “It’s going to be cool tomorrow morning, so the hole’s going to play really long, so it’s important that I get off to a good start. It’s a hard pin tomorrow over in the top right. I’ve got to do my job starting out.”
Finally it’s time to rumble. Woods takes driver to kick things off and it is leaking left. After a bounce in the rough it kicks back to the fairway. Nice bounce there to start play. Perhaps the golf gods are keenly aware of this historic chase. His second shot comes from 211 yards out and he hates it. Comes out heavy and it will fall short of the green and into a bunker. Club slides under the fresh sand a little and while the ball finds the green it catches a ridge and funnels away from the hole leaving a lengthy par putt that needs to go up a ridge. Gives it a fair whack but it just runs out of pace and dives under the hole. Taps in for bogey.
Note: Two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama who is through 13 holes
No. 13 (par 3, 141 yards)
From a tough starting hole to a very getable short par-3, Woods is looking to rebound and steady the ship. He takes dead aim with a 9-iron and is rewarded for his efforts. Looking at 10-feet straight up the hill for birdie. A statement shot there for sure. Woods is making sure he sees all angles on this putt. He’s making sure to give it full attention. Back and through but he hasn’t quite given it enough speed and it dies to the right leaving him to settle for a mildly annoying par.
Note: Two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, who is through 13 holes.
No. 14 (par 5, 608 yards)
Time for driver on this par 5. Woods pumps one down the middle and is quickly walking after it as he knows it is perfect. He will be happy with that after his miss on the last green. He might not be happy with the fact Matsuyama is now up on the putting surface ahead with a very short look at birdie to cut the lead to one. But the local star has shoved his putt a little right and lips out the 3-footer to settle for par. Woods looks to position his second shot in a good spot but it has squirted to the right and has found the rough … and sat down.
It doesn’t pose a problem though for this legend of the game and he chops it out and onto the green to leave a reasonable look at birdie. From about 20 feet, Woods sends the ball on the way and WALKS. IT. IN. Great birdie. Leads by three and has just four holes left.
Note: Three-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama who is through 14 holes
No. 15 (par 4, 425 yards)
Driver again here for Woods and he is pumped up now. It leaks just a little to the right into the first cut but he is strutting now. Chest is out and rightfully so. Just 102 yards left for his second shot and it is a beauty. Another close look at birdie coming up for Woods who barely reacts to his effort … acting like he’s been here before … which of course he has been … many times.
Even the most ardent Woods fan cannot have foreshadowed this dominance after his recent form and the fact this is a first tournament in nine weeks after knee surgery. Remember this is the same guy who started the tournament on Thursday with three straight bogeys! His birdie try here seems simple enough but it breaks a little left and burns the edge. Woods can’t believe it. Has another look at the read after cleaning up par. It should not matter … although Matsuyama just coaxed in a long birdie on the 16th.
Note: Two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama who is through 16 holes.
No. 16 (par 3, 183 yards)
Having noticed Matsuyama birdie the hole ahead of him Woods, knows he must deliver on this par 3. He takes 7-iron out and hits another beautiful iron shot. It lands softly like a butterfly with sore feet and once again leaves Woods with a decent look at birdie. Another chance from about 20 feet and he’s very careful with this one speed wise. It is too far out to the left though and won’t come back from there. A tap in par is enough to maintain the two shot lead with two to play.
Note: Two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama who is through 16 holes
No. 17 (par 4, 491 yards)
The tougher of the two holes left in this historic chase. Tiger takes driver again and just rips it beautifully down the left side of the fairway. If there are nerves in there you’d never know. Woods just keeps chewing his gum like he’s playing a round with a few buddies in a $5 Nassau rather than creating even more history.
Up ahead Matsuyama cannot get his birdie try to drop and that might be the end of his attempt to win in his home country. He will really rue the missed 3-footer on the 14th. Woods would love to stick a dagger in here with his approach. Plays a knock down shot that doesn’t cut like he wanted so while it finds the green he has a lengthy birdie putt to come. While it never looks like going in it is a great lag and par is secured. The final hole is a par-5 so big swings are possible but his two-shot lead looks very safe, particularly as Matsuyama drove his tee shot on the last into a bunker.
Note: Two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama who is through 17 holes.
No. 18 (par 5, 562 yards)
It’s a bit of a wait on the tee here at No. 18 as Matsuyama knows he needs a hero shot on approach to have any chance and is trying to figure out just how that might be possible from the fairway bunker. He can’t go until the green clears. The steely stare is there in Woods eyes as he stands up on the final tee box surveying what’s going on ahead.
It’s amazing to think Woods has won 81 times on the PGA TOUR prior to this moment. Snead was 52 when he got his 82nd and last win. Woods is 43. The first for Woods came way back at the 1996 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. If he closes this out it will make his record 44 of 46 when leading outright after 54 holes. That is insane.
Matsuyama has decided to try to cut a 3-wood out of the bunker and it is a pretty good strike but just won’t turn enough. He finds the greenside bunker. Probably needs to hole that for a chance. Woods goes less than driver off the tee here. He knows he doesn’t need to do anything stupid. Wow, it is just precision stuff. Right down the middle. Matsuyama has to force the issue now up ahead. Woah… he has got way too much ball it seems and flares it up over the pin and to the back of the green. Baring a miracle that will be it. One more decent approach shot from Woods and he can pace up the 18th fairway and soak in the moment. Matsuyama tries for birdie from 40-feet and it is a great effort but just falls short. Great effort in front of his home fans this week but his par means Woods can make bogey and still win outright.
From 281 yards, Woods lets it fly with a 5-wood and it looks good in the air for a moment before coming down in the right greenside bunker. His walk to the green is met with generous applause but Woods is yet to blink out of his steely focus. He refuses to get ahead of himself despite the fact he’s got this well in hand. The ball is close to the lip but nothing dangerous and he has a lot of green to work with. It’s a lovely shot from the sand and it leaves a nice look at birdie from maybe 12-feet or so. Could three-putt and still win. But he only needs one putt! Raises the putter as the ball dives into the cup for birdie and a three-shot win! Epic stuff.
“This is big. Hideki made it tight. It was a lot closer than people maybe thought,” Woods said.
“It is just crazy. It is a lot. I have been able to be consistent most of my career and have put myself up there with a chance to win on a number of occasions, there was plenty of times I didn’t but today was one of those days where I was able to pull it out. It was definitely stressful.”
Note: Three-shot WIN over Hideki Matsuyama. Joins Sam Snead with 82 PGA TOUR wins. Most of all-time.
This article originally appeared on PGATour.com.