Tiger Woods brilliantly continued to defy the sceptics as he muscled his way to a three-shot victory in the rain-affected ZoZo Championship and in in the process tied the late Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories.
Woods, 43, was virtually in a class of his own throughout the eventual four-and-and-a-half days of the inaugural PGA Tour ZoZo Championship event in Japan with the 15-time Major winner superbly setting himself up for victory with a pair of 64s and keeping clear of the chasing pack with an eventual third round 66 that was competed early afternoon Sunday local time.
Woods was still two clear of his rivals through 11 holes of his final round much later on Sunday when darkness halted play.
However, the sun shone brightly early Monday morning and Woods completed his closing seven holes of the $US9.75m event in one-under par, signing for a score of 67 for a 19-under par tally, three clear of local Japanese hero, Hideki Matsuyama (67) who finished on 16-under par.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy managed his way to a share of third place in recording a closing round of 67 to end his opening event of the 2019/20 PGA Tour wraparound season tied with South Korean Sunjae Im (65), while Shane Lowry finished in T13 place following a closing round 65.
Six months on from Woods’ very emotional triumph at Augusta National, where he brilliantly defied many ‘knockers’ to capture a 15th Major Championship and his first Major in 11-years, the champion American has again added his name to golf’s history books in matching ‘Slamming Sam’s’ record for the most wins on the PGA Tour.
“Eighty-two is big number and it’s about being consistent for a very long time,” said Woods.
“Sam achieved the feat when in his 50s and I am into my early to mid 40s, so it’s about being consistent and about doing it for a very long period of time. I have been very fortunate to have the career I’ve had so far.
“To have won this tournament in Japan is so ironic because I have always been a global player. I’ve always played around the world and to tie the record outside of the United States is pretty cool.
“It’s also just crazy, but then it does mean a lot. I’ve been able to be consistent most of my career and I’ve put myself up there with a chance to win on a number of occasions. There’s plenty of times where I didn’t, but today was one of those days where I was going to pull it out.
“It’s been a long week, five days at the top of the board is a long time. It was definitely stressfull”.
And then there’s been the injuries. So many injuries it’s been hard for even the very keen followers of Woods’ career to recall. Though all sports fans are aware it was back fusion surgery that got him back to competition, and more-recently it was left knee surgery that allowed him to tee-up in Japan but through it all Woods has come back to compete against the best and now in the Land of the Rising Sun, Woods shines brighter than everyone.
“There’s no doubt, because I’m at a point where I didn’t know if I would ever play again. I was just hoping to be able to walk normal again,” he said. “To be able to go through all that to get to where I’m at now is very — I’m very appreciative. I know how it feels to have this game, you know, what I felt taken away from me, where I couldn’t participate in the
way that I wanted to. Just so happy and so fortunate to be able to have this opportunity again.”
Among those to be first to formally congratulate Woods was PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan.
“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 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.”